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Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 61-8899 

Copyright 1961 by Richard O'Connor 

All Rights Reserved 

Printed in the United States of America 

First Edition 




1. Plowboy, Officer, and Gentleman 13 

2. A Silver Star for San Juan Hill 37 

3. Against the Gong-Maddened Moros 53 

4. Promotion and Scandal 75 

5. The Problem of Pancho Villa 105 

6. The Empty Cage for Pancho Villa 121 


7. A "Token Force" for France 143 

8. The War-Weary French 161 

9. Black Jack and His Nursemaids 181 

10. The "Valley Forge Winter" 203 

11. The Great Gamble 229 

12. Cantigny . . . Belleau Wood . . . Soissons 251 

13. The Jaws of Saint-Mihiel 277 

14. The Longest, Toughest Battle 299 

15. Victory, Peace, and Departure 323 



16. Chief of Staff 347 

17. On the Shelf 367 

18. Muffled Drums-and Taps 387 



INDEX 419 


This is not an "authorized" biography of General Pershing in the 
sense that it was written with his family's blessing or encouragement. 
His son Warren, however, did make available his personal recollections 
in his usual gracious manner and gave permission for examination of 
the Pershing Papers in the Library of Congress's Manuscript Division, 
which were admirably collected, indexed, and boxed only in the past 
several years. No previous work on Pershing's career included these 
voluminous papers, diaries, letters, and journals. 

My acquaintance with the general was limited to a few minutes' 
interview in his office when I was a reporter in Washington, and the 
city editor, who had a grisly sense of humor, insisted that I try to enlist 
his opinion of General Douglas MacArthur's dispersal of the Bonus 
Marchers, most of them men who had served under Pershing. 

The general, of course, wouldn't talk. He was grimly courteous, im- 
passive, and understandably eager to be rid of me. The nauseating 
phrase, "No comment," had not yet come into common usage, but 
that was what his few curt remarks added up to. He was an expert at 
ridding himself of newspapermen, most of whom he disliked on prin- 
ciple, and a few minutes later I found myself out on the street, dis- 
missed with a grunt and a nod. I didn't much like the old General of 
the Armies. I had known Chicago gangsters who were friendlier. 

Now, a quarter of a century later, I find him more understandable. 
The aim of this biography is to do the same for the reader. 



1. Plowboy, Officer, and Gentleman 

The two leading American military crusaders in Europe during the 
first and second world wars were men of strikingly similar background. 
Both sprang from mid-continent America, from similar racial stock 
and much the same kind of hard-working, unpretentious people who 
had come west with the wagon trains and settled along the Middle 
Border. But the times in which they lived, their differing experiences, 
and their own remarkably opposed personalities shaped them in diverse 
fashion. Rarely has a general acquired the popularity of D wight D. 
Eisenhower; his was the smiling brotherly image, agreeable, democratic, 
rarely stern or authoritarian. He delegated responsibility whenever pos- 
sible, and his plans and decisions were formulated in the homogenized 
atmosphere of staff conferences and group thinking. Supreme Head- 
quarters functioned along corporate lines; its natural habitat was the 
monolithic office building, and Eisenhower was its urbane and tactful 
chairman of the board. 

John J. Pershing, commander in chief of the American Expedition- 
ary Force, evoked no such enthusiasm at home or abroad. Among 
World War I generals, a well-publicized paternalism was regarded as 
necessary equipment for high command "Papa" Joffre pulling the ears 
of his poilus and calling them "my children," Hindenburg gruffly rep- 
resenting himself as the massive father image of the German armies. 
But, as a perceptive American war correspondent named Heywood 
Broun observed, "they don't call him Papa Pershing." There was noth- 
ing paternal about Pershing, who had little talent and less respect for 
posturing of any kind. To the doughboy he was simply a hard-boiled, 
super-drill sergeant. He didn't expect to be venerated by the men he 


sent into combat and death any more than their top kick did when 
he blew his whistle and shoved them into no man's land; nor would he 
allow the arts of publicity to be applied on his behalf and picture him 
as anything but what he was a practical, unsentimental soldier doing 
his job. 

Instead of delegating authority, he kept his hand on every lever of 
the A.E.F.'s operations and yielded responsibility grudgingly, if at all. 
He organized the American forces in Europe with himself as their 
model, causing one writer to observe, "When you stumbled upon a lost 
American doughboy hi a God-forsaken hamlet, his bearing, the set of 
his tunic, his salute, all authentically recalled the general who sat in 
Chaumont." He was a hard disciplinarian, unashamedly ambitious, 
jealous of his authority, ruthless with major generals who had served 
with him in Mexico or the Philippines, harsh with homesick boys who 
faltered in their duty. Even his oldest friends were given just one chance 
to prove themselves. He accomplished what he set out to dobuild a 
modern, war-worthy American Army, keep it separate from the Allies, 
and help beat the Germans but few loved him for it. 

The presidency was Eisenhower's for the taking. With Pershing, 
even had he admitted to wanting it, it was a different matter. Politicians 
who tested sentiment among his former soldiers and civilians at home 
to determine whether Pershing could not be propelled into the White 
House, much as Ulysses S. Grant had been nominated through the 
political backing of the Grand Army of the Republic, found that both 
classes were as opposed to the idea of "Pershing for President" as the 
general himself professed to be. 

Everything about Pershing seemed to be sternly and exclusively 
military. He never softened an order with a smile, rarely with an ex- 
planation. He did not expect popularity but demanded obedience. 
Soldiering was the harsh profession he had learned while galloping pack 
trains through Apache country, storming Moro forts in the Philippines, 
chasing Pancho Villa through the badlands of northern Mexico. He 
resisted change, and, even as late as the summer of 1918, was de- 
manding two cavalry divisions for service among the barbed wire, the 
machine-gun nests, and trench systems of the western front. In his life- 
time of eighty-eight years, weaponry developed from the cavalry saber 
to the atomic bomb, with rapid-fire armament, tanks, aircraft, and 
poison gas in-between, but he always regarded warfare as a matter of 
men with guns in their hands. Self-confidence was the keystone of his 


career, and firmness, if not granitic stubbornness, was the main element 
of his character. On being jumped from command of a border division 
to commander in chief of the A.E.F., he remarked, "There never was, 
then or at any other time, any doubt of my ability to do the job, 
provided the government would furnish me with the men, the equip- 
ment, and the supplies." He had the kind of vast self-assurance that 
enabled him to "believe in himself without thinking of himself." New- 
comer to modern total war and large-scale operations though he was, 
he refused to be overawed by the towering reputations of the French 
and British military leaders or persuaded against his will by the elo- 
quence of their civilian chiefs. If they wouldn't take a simple "No," he 
did not hesitate to raise his voice and bang his fist on the conference 
table to make it more emphatic. 

During a crucial meeting of the Supreme War Council in May of 
1918, when the Germans had broken the Allied front, he refused to 
be coerced on an important issue, and Lord Milner whispered to 
Prime Minister Lloyd George, "It's no use. You can't budge him an 
inch." When he was finally budged, it was because he judged that the 
time and circumstances were proper for co-operation. He had been un- 
budgeable all his life and didn't propose to change in the rarefied 
atmosphere of European war councils. 

His nickname was significant. They called him Black Jack Per- 
shing. . . . 

For a man whose lifelong concern was organized violence, he was 
born in the proper time and place, less than a year before the Civil 
War started and in a section of Missouri which was overrun by guer- 
rillas, border fighters, and bushwhackers of all persuasions. He was 
literally under fire before he was four years old. He drew his "daily 
ration" from a friendly Union Army sergeant. He watched the gaunt 
men from both armies return to their homes, many of them maimed 
or diseased, most of them disillusioned, all of them hating war more 
than they hated each other, after the surrender at Appomattox. War 
deeply scored the earliest conscious moments of his life. 

John Joseph Pershing was born in a section house of the old Han- 
nibal & St. Joseph Railroad on the outskirts of Laclede, a village in 
northeastern Missouri, on September 13, 1860. His father, John F. 
Pershing, was a section foreman on the railroad at the time of his 
first child's birth, but his ambition and energy were to make him one 


of Laclede's leading citizens within a few years; his mother, the former 
Ann Thompson, was descended from old Virginia stock. There was 
small chance that "Jackie," as his family called him even after he be- 
came an imposing national figure, would be spoiled. He was the first 
of nine children. Three of the children died in infancy not a bad 
proportion in those daysbut two brothers and three sisters survived. 

The Pershing ancestry was a purposeful mixture of Anglo-Saxon on 
his mother's side of the house, Alsatian and German on his father's. 
His great-grandfather, Frederick Pfoerschin (the name underwent a 
sea change to Pfershing, then was further Anglicized by dropping the 
/), migrated to the United States from the French province of Alsace, 
landing in Philadelphia on October 2, 1749. Frederick Pershing, a 
Lutheran who spoke both French and German, came over as a "re- 
demptioner" on the sailing ship Jacob, indentured to the ship's captain 
until he had worked out his passage over. "Service in redemption," as 
his great-grandson wrote after research into the family history, "was 
based upon a contract or indenture entered into between the captain 
of the ship and the passenger by which the latter agreed for a certain 
period after his arrival in America to render whatever lawful service 
or employment the captain or his assigns might exact." Once that 
obligation was settled, Frederick Pershing moved to Westmoreland 
County, Pennsylvania, married Maria Elizabeth Weygandt, and worked 
a farm to the end of his days. 

In succeeding generations, part of the Pershing family stayed behind 
in Pennsylvania and part joined the movement westward. "Each gen- 
eration," John J. Pershing wrote with pride, "furnished pioneers as the 
frontier moved westward. They were found in the columns that settled 
the Western Reserve; in the trains that carried civilization to Indiana, 
Illinois, Missouri and the Middle West, and were represented among 
the early settlers of Oregon and California. Their log cabins have 
dotted every state from Pennsylvania to the Pacific." 

One of Frederick Pershing's sons, the Reverend Conrad Pershing, 
accompanied Captain Campbell's punitive expedition against the 
Indians near Fort Ligonnier in 1792. Scouts located the Indians' camp 
and an immediate assault was ordered by Captain Campbell. This was 
delayed when Conrad, as unofficial chaplain of the expedition, in- 
sisted that they all get down on their knees and pray. Conrad prayed 
so loudly and fervently possibly on purposethat he had to be silenced 
by his more military comrades. An hour later the company descended 


on the hostile camp to find it deserted. "Whether a spy from the 
Indian camp, or his loud praying, caused the Indians to flee is not 
known," a Pershing family historian wrote, but the Reverend Conrad 
was requested to stay at home when any other forces took the field. 

General Pershing, who came across this account in his later years, 
scrawled on its margin a disapproving comment on his great-uncle's 
pious lapse: "Hardly a military proceeding." 

John F. Pershing, the general's father, migrated to Missouri by 
working his way down the Ohio on flatboats and was hired as boss 
of a track-laying gang pushing the railroad across northwestern Mis- 
souri. He met Ann Elizabeth Thompson, who had been born twenty- 
four years before in Blount County, Kentucky, while she was living on 
her family's farm outside the town of Warrenton, Missouri. They were 
married in 1859 and settled down in the section house outside Laclede, 
where neighbor women assisted in the birth of their first son. 

The family soon moved out of the section house to a more sub- 
stantial two-story frame house in town, with a porch, bay windows, 
and outbuildings. John F. Pershing had already started rising in the 
small world of Laclede, had opened a store, had been appointed 
United States postmaster and elected captain of the Home Guard. Re- 
mote and sylvan though that corner of the state was, Linn County 
knew sectional strife long before most of the country. Many of the 
Pershings' neighbors were pro-slavery-there were $30,000,000 worth 
of slaves in Missouri's border counties, and Laclede itself numbered 
more Negroes than whites among its populationand one of their 
nocturnal pursuits was raiding across the line into Kansas and attempt- 
ing to drive out the equally fanatic Free-Soil colonists. The elder 
Pershing had, of course, declared for the North and the Union. His 
mother's family, General Pershing said, was "distinctly southern in 
manners and habits of thought," but opposed to slavery. So there was 
no argument over national issues in the Pershing house. 

When war came, John F. Pershing, whose interests were more 
mercantile than military, marched off with the 20th Missouri Infantry 
as its sutler. His connection with the war, even in this peripheral role, 
was limited to a few brief campaigns. Perhaps the most venturesome 
of his wartime experiences was going to Vicksburg and bringing back 
his wife's brother, who had been wounded in the siege and was in- 
capacitated for further service. 

Young John Pershing may not have been able to recall in later 


years the talk of Shiloh, Gettysburg, and Chickamauga that echoed 
through his earliest childhood, but what he called a "vulgar and 
vicious" kind of war came to his doorstep when he was not quite four 
years old. On June 18, 1864, a mob of Confederate bushwhackers 
led by a Captain Holtzclaw, the terror of the neighborhood, rode into 
Laclede. The earliest recollection of his life, as Pershing wrote in a 
draft of the unpublished memoir of his pre-1917 years, was of the 
raiders galloping into the town, riding around the square and through 
the streets, firing their guns into the homes of known Unionists. Several 
men who tried to resist them were shot. 

The Pershings were among the most prominent Unionists in Laclede, 
and their house, with the United States flag flying outside, attracted 
the bushwhackers' attention immediately. Pershing's father took his 
double-barreled shotgun and headed for the door, but his mother 
threw her arm around him and "begged him not to be so foolish." 
The Pershings barricaded their doors and took shelter behind the 
furniture as the raiders emptied their guns into the house. Fortu- 
nately their aim did not match their enthusiasm, and the family sur- 
vived the brief siege without harm. For more than an hour the raiders 
terrorized the town; then the triumphant blast of a whistle sounded 
from the Hannibal & St. Joseph tracks. A trainload of Union sol- 
diers, summoned by telegraph from the nearest garrison, arrived to 
send the bushwhackers ingloriously flying. The boy's next martial 
memory was less violent: the weary files of Union and Confederate 
soldiers straggling back to their homes, neighbors once again, after 

With his father prospering and the family increasing at the rate of 
a child a year, Pershing's boyhood was the kind of rough and carefree 
idyll such as another Missourian would be describing in the adventures 
of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. The country around Laclede 
was sparsely settled, making it ideal for boyhood's purposes. Young 
John knew the best places for hunting the quail, squirrel, coon, and 
wild turkey which abounded in the thickets, the most promising fish- 
ing holes in Turkey, Locust, and Muddy creeks. In the spring he and 
his friends would make catches by the wagonload when the streams 
flooded, then receded, and left hundreds of fish trapped in the isolated 
pools. They spent hours frolicking in the swimming holes at Pratt's 
pond and the Woodland Mills dam, where the mill itself hung over the 
water on stilts. On long summer days, wearied of other sports, he and 


his friends would lie under the giant cottonwoods along the creek 
bottoms and discuss the latest exploits of the James boys, the Younger 
brothers, and other offshoots of the Quantrell raiders for whom the war 
would never end. In the library at home, Pershing recalled hi mature 
years, there was an assortment of good reading: the Bible, Pilgrim's 
Progress, Aesop's Fables, Robinson Crusoe, the works of Shakespeare, 
Scott, Poe, and Byron, but he surreptitiously devoted himself to the 
paperback volumes of Beadle's Dime Library and once hi school was 
caught poring over one of them behind his geography, because "I be- 
came so absorbed in the hairbreadth escapes of the heroes of those 
blood-curdling tales." 

The most humiliating of his boyhood experiences, one which con- 
tributed to his lifelong shyness and made him ill at ease when he was 
called upon to speak on any formal occasion, occurred when he was 
only five or six years old. He was supposed to recite Mary Had a 
Little Lamb at a school exercise to which the parents were invited. 
Every gruesome detail of that recitation stuck in his mind ever after- 
ward. "Mother had dressed me up in my best clothes, to which a blue 
bow tie gave a fancy touch." He was the first pupil called upon to 
recite. "I was stagestruck. The words entirely left me. After a dreadful 
pause, Mother, who sat well up front, came to the rescue, whispering 
the first line loud enough for me to hear." The boy had to be prompted 
through every line of the nursery rhyme. "My embarrassment was so 
painful that the memory left with me was lasting . . . and often to this 
day when I get up to speak the latent memory of that first experience 
comes over me with distinctly unpleasant effects." 

His brother Jim, born a year later (and followed by Bess, May, 
Grace, and Ward among the surviving children), was regarded by the 
townspeople as being brighter, livelier, and more popular. If any of 
the Pershing boys made good, they believed, it would be Jim, who 
seemed to have more "push." Perry Floyd, the town blacksmith, re- 
membered John as having "devilment in him nothing mean just a 
little quiet sly devilment." It had to be quiet; the elder Pershing was 
prominent in the Methodist Church and had no intention of letting 
any of his boys get mixed up with the "bad element," and his mother 
kept warning him against his less respectable friends, the local Huck 
Finns, with the fine old rural proverb, "If you lie down with dogs, you 
will get up with fleas." 

One instance of "devilment" occurred when John and two other 


boys locked their teacher, Old Man Angell, out of the schoolhouse in 
retaliation for his practice of lashing the legs of tardy pupils with a 
switch from a bundle kept fresh and Umber in a corner of the school- 
room. John, whose lifelong failing was an habitual tardiness, was a 
regular target of the schoolmaster. The lockout caused almost as much 
of a stir in town as Holtzclaw's raid. It took the local pastor and the 
whole school board to persuade the boys to remove the ladder bar- 
ricading the door. It was also John's last known defiance of authority 
in any form. 

He learned to chew tobacco and smoke a corncob behind the to- 
bacco barn owned by Clay Biggers's father. Clay, the future mayor of 
Laclede, shared a seat with him in school and squared off with him 
in schoolyard fights. "I've had many a fight with him and I could al- 
ways whip him because I was bigger," he said, "but he was always 
ready to keep right on fighting. Whip him one day and he would be 
right back to tackle you the next. He was the gamest boy I ever knew." 
As General Pershing remembered his schoolboy fights, "I was always 
able to hold my own." He scratched out the "always/' however, and 
substituted "usually." 

He looked on his elders with the skepticism of one of Mark Twain's 
observant young characters. The people of Laclede, he noted, made a 
great show of being religious, but "they did not always live up to the 
tenets of their church . . . and were known as backsliders. But they 
usually came back into the fold during the revivals held each winter, 
when they would express deep regret at their conduct, only to fall 
from grace later on. This hypocrisy did not escape the observation of 
even the growing children." 

Not unexpectedly, perhaps, the heroes of his boyhood were the 
soldiers who guarded the army storehouse in Laclede. He made friends 
with the sergeant of the guard, who gave him a piece of hardtack 
every day which he solemnly brought home and presented to his mother 
as "my day's ration." Despite his occasional waywardness, he was 
closer to his mother than any other adult. He resembled her in looks 
and temperament, having inherited her square jaw, wide brow, well- 
spaced eyes, and firm mouth, her common sense and competence in 
everything she undertook. He recalled in later years that she was per- 
haps the most accomplished horsewoman in that section. His brother 
Jim, on the other hand, inherited their father's hearty outgoing per- 


sonality and ability to make himself popular. Of these paternal quali- 
ties, the older boy received scant measure. 

There was little in his early years to suggest that John would be 
much different from the boys he played and made mischief with, who 
grew up to be farmers, clerks, day laborers, and drifters. 

As the boy grew older, however, his parents made him aware of the 
fact that more was expected of him than running wild in the woods 
and creek bottoms. John and Ann Pershing wanted something better 
for their family than ordinary, obscure, and aimless lives. The elder 
Pershing had become a leading merchant and landowner, president of 
the local school board, and superintendent of the Sunday school at the 
Methodist Church. He planned a college education for John and the 
other children, so they were expected to work hard at their studies. 
John, as the oldest boy, was also introduced early, before his twelfth 
year, to the virtues of manual labor. On farmlands acquired by his 
father at the edge of Laclede, John learned to plow the soil, plant 
and cultivate long rows of corn, feed and otherwise care for the hogs 
and cattle, all the farm chores which began before sunup and ended 
just after sundown. It was noted that the young plowboy hated a 
crooked furrow; he'd sweat and strain for an hour to remove a rock 
from the path of his plow and keep his rows straight ... an early 
instance of his notable, career-long insistence on heading straight for 
an objective, sweeping everything aside. 

John's apprenticeship was doubly valuable when in the panic of 
1873, his father's holdings were almost wiped out. The elder Pershing 
had bought up a number of farms with the help of bank loans, and 
with the postwar depression came the inevitable foreclosures. The 
Pershings lost all but one farm, which John was to work singlehanded 
at the age of fourteen while his father went out on the road as a 
traveling salesman for several years for a Saint Joseph clothing manu- 
facturer and later for a Chicago firm. It was left to John, through the 
remainder of his teens, to act as head of the family while his father 
was on the road, keep up his schooling, and make the farm on the out- 
skirts of Laclede pay its way. A sense of responsibility was thus in- 
grained into him permanently. It was just as well that he had those few 
carefree boyhood years before he was introduced to the sterner realities, 
because he never was released from them until he was a very old man, 
so old and ill that he was the captive of his doctors and nurses. 

For the rest of his youth, unwittingly enough, he might have served 


as a model for one of Horatio Alger's all but incredible heroes. There 
was an almost dreary sense of rectitude, striving, and achievement 
about the years of his youth; yet it was not at all uncommon in those 
times, when so much more was demanded of young men. From all 
accounts, he accepted his lot cheerfully and without giving himself any 
airs or assuming that he was a martyr to family responsibility. At the 
age of seventeen, when he might have been entering college if his 
father had been less optimistic about the value of Linn County farm- 
land, he qualified as a teacher at the elementary school at Prairie 
Mound, where he was paid thirty-five dollars a month, cash money, 
for drilling the fundamentals into those pupils who came to learn and 
thumping discipline into those who slouched at their desks and tried to 
interfere with that process. John had a way with rebellious and dis- 
orderly louts as well as the more receptive pupils, and he was asked to 
come back a second year. 

One significant episode of his two-year tenure as teacher at Prairie 
Mound's one-room school survives. W. H. Blakely, who had been one 
of Pershing's pupils, told a Kansas City Star reporter during World 
War I how a burly redheaded farmer rode up to the schoolhouse one 
morning, brandishing a revolver and roaring out demands that the 
teacher show himself. Pershing had whipped his oldest boy for having 
kicked a dog which had strayed into the schoolroom. 

Blakely remembered how the farmer "rode up cursing before all the 
children in the schoolyard and how another boy and I ran down a gully 
because we were afraid. We peeked over the edge, though, and heard 
Pershing tell the farmer to put up his gun, get down off his horse, and 
fight like a man. The farmer got down and John stripped off his coat. 
He was only a boy of eighteen . . . but he thrashed the old farmer 
soundly." When he had dusted himself off, the fanner generously con- 
ceded that John was "a better man than I thought you were," and 
added, "If that boy of mine does any more cutting up, I want you to 
lick him good." From then on, the older boys, some of whom were al- 
most John's age, kept the peace while in his schoolroom. In later years, 
too, Pershing did not hesitate to use his fists, if necessary, to make a 

He saved the money earned from teaching to attend the 1879 and 
1880 spring terms at the State Normal School at Kirksville (now the 
Northeast Missouri State Teachers College) and on June 17, 1880, 
was awarded the degree of Bachelor of Scientific Didactics, an edu- 


cational whimsey of the time. In Kirksville he lived with an uncle, 
William Griffith, and nights, after putting aside his textbooks, he began 
reading his way through Blackstone. His ambition then was to become 
a lawyer; the career of a professional soldier had never occurred to him 
at an age when most boys intent on a military career were entering or 
applying to enter West Point. Meanwhile, he continued to teach school 
and work the family farm. As he turned twenty-one, his sister May 
recalled of him, John was very particular about his appearance, used to 
keep his Sunday trousers pressed between the mattresses on his bed, 
and was exceedingly proud of the gray kid gloves his father had given 
him as a birthday present. 

The whole course of his life, which might have proceeded along the 
quiet channels 61 a small-town legal career, was changed by a few 
inches of type appearing hi newspapers published throughout the Sec- 
ond Congressional District under the signature of Congressman J. H. 
Burroughs. It read, "On July 15th there will be a competitive ex- 
amination for the appointment of a cadet at the United States Military 
Academy at West Point. All honest, strong, God-fearing boys of this 
district may take part." 

John decided to take the examination after much soul-searching and 
over the objections of his mother who, to the end of her days, would 
have preferred the title of attorney at law to the one which he finally 
attained and shared only with George Washington General of the 
Armies. The military profession was generally held in low repute and 
regarded as a refuge for misfits, drunkards, and ruffians. A familar 
jeer at the sight of a uniform was, "Soldier, will you work?" As John 
rationalized it, however, West Point would provide a first-rate educa- 
tion at government expense, and he was privileged to resign from the 
military life after graduation. Some of America's best soldiers have 
been hooked with this bright lure, the chance of a "free" education. 

Eighteen candidates took the examination that summer at Trenton, 
with the result that Pershing received the highest grades and the ap- 
pointment to the military academy was his, provided he could pass its 
more stringent academic board's requirements. On December 28, 
1881, the Laclede News announced: "John J. Pershing will take leave 
of home and friends this week for West Point, where he will enter the 
United States Military Academy. John will make a first-rate, good- 
looking cadet with Uncle Sam's blue, and we trust ho will ever wear it 
with honor to himself and the old flag which floats above him. John, 


here's our hand! May success crown your efforts and a long life be 

Actually, unsure whether his degree of Bachelor of Scientific Di- 
dactics had completely equipped him for West Point, John was heading 
for Highland Falls, New York, where the white-bearded old Caleb 
Huse (West Point '51) had established a preparatory school for Acad- 
emy hopefuls. The shaking-down process which stood between him and 
graduation was formidable. Of 183 appointees in his class, only 129 
passed the examinations, and of those 129 only seventy-seven received 
their diplomas in 1886. John applied himself, as usual, and passed the 
West Point examination, entering the Academy as a plebe in July, 
1882, just short of his twenty-second birthday (the legal limit for ad- 
mittance) and six years older than the youngest member of his class. 

Demonstrating, at least, the diversity of American character, some 
odd types managed to survive the Academy's screening process. Avery 
D. Andrews, Pershing's classmate and a somewhat more sophisticated 
easterner, recalled that among them were some amusing specimens 
whose eccentricities would require all the grooming and standardizing 
that West Point could apply. "One tall and lanky candidate from Texas 
appeared in a long black coat, then commonly known as a Prince 
Albert, and a vest which no doubt was white when he left Texas. . . . 
Another boy from Oregon walked over one hundred miles to a rail- 
road station and then traveled by train for the first time in his life." 
But the giddiest character of all, perhaps, was a comical fellow named 
Wiley Bean who showed up in a seersucker suit and soon after meeting 
Pershing went around telling everyone that "Pershing will be President 
one day." 

Almost thirty years later Pershing provided his own first impressions 
of West Point: 

"Marching into camp, piling bedding, policing company streets for 
logs or wood carelessly dropped by upper classmen, pillow fights at 
tattoo with Marcus Miller, sabre drawn marching up and down super- 
intending the plebe class, policing up feathers from the general parade; 
light artillery drills, double timing around old Fort Clinton at morning 
squad drill, Wiley Bean and the sad fate of his seersucker coat; mid- 
night dragging, and the whole summer full of events can only be men- 
tioned in passing. No one can ever forget his first guard tour with all 
its preparation and perspiration. I got along all right during the day, 
but at night on the color line my troubles began. Of course, I was 


scared beyond the point of properly applying any of my orders. A few 
minutes after taps, ghosts of all sorts began to appear from all di- 
rections. I selected a particularly bold one and challenged according 
to orders, 'Halt, who goes there?' At that the ghost stood still in its 
tracks. I then said, 'Halt, who stands there?' Whereupon the ghost, who 
was carrying a chair, sat down. Then I promptly said, 'Halt, who sits 

"After plebe camp came plebe math and French. I never stood high 
in French and was prone to burn the midnight oil. One night Walcott 
and Bentley Mott came in to see me. My roommate, 'Lucy' Hunt, was 
in bed asleep. Suddenly we heard Flaxy, who was officer in charge, 
coming up the stairs several steps at a time. I snatched the blanket from 
the window, turned out the light and leaped into bed, clothing and all, 
while Walcott seeing escape impossible, gently woke Hunt, and in a 
whisper said, 'Lucy, may I crawl under your bed?' I paid the penalty 
by walking six tours of extra duty." 

Civil War glamour still provided a thick overlay on the Academy's 
tradition, and, as Pershing noted, "The West Point under Merritt, 
Michie and Hasbrouck was still the West Point of Grant, Sherman, 
Sheridan, Schofield and Howard. The deep impression these great men 
made during their visits to West Point in our day went far to inspire 
us with the soldier's spirit of self-sacrifice, duty and honor." During 
Pershing's term at the Academy, the one-armed General O. O. Howard 
was superintendent, soon to be succeeded by the dashing General Wes- 
ley Merritt, who had commanded a cavalry division under Sheridan at 
the age of twenty-seven. 

The clearest picture of Pershing as a cadet was provided by Robert 
Lee Bullard, who was in the class ahead of him and who subsequently 
commanded the Second Army in France under him. Bullard, a south- 
erner, was cadet lieutenant while Pershing was first sergeant of A 
Company of the Cadet Corps and apparently observed him closely. 
Bullard noted that Pershing had it easier than most of his classmen 
who were an average three years younger because he was "more ma- 
ture than most cadets" and quickly developed the "right idea of com- 
mand and authority." 

Pershing had "regular but not handsome features and ... a robust 
strong body, broad shouldered and well developed; almost or quite 
six feet tall; plainly of the estate of man while most about him were 
still boys; with keen searching eyes and intent look . . . Pershing in- 


spired confidence but not affection. Personal magnetism seemed lack- 
ing. He won followers and admirers, but not personal worshippers. 
Plain in word, sane and direct in action, he applied himself to all duty 
and all work with a manifest purpose, not only of succeeding in what 
he attempted, but of surpassing, guiding and directing his fellows in 
what was before them. His exercise of authority was then, and always 
has been since, of a nature peculiarly impersonal, dispassionate, hard 
and firm. This quality did not, as in many, give offense; the man was 
too impersonal, too given over to pure business and duty." Pershing's 
manner even as a cadet, when most of his fellows were a trifle shaky- 
voiced and shamefaced about snapping orders and were far from hav- 
ing acquired the "habit of command," indicated clearly that he believed 
he had an "unquestioned right to obedience," Bullard noted. 

This instinctive grasp of the "right to obedience" led Pershing stead- 
ily upward through the West Point ranks, until he was first captain of 
the Cadet Corps, "the most coveted place a cadet can hold." 

With the girls who came up to West Point for the hops, Pershing 
was more popular and a lot more relaxed than with his fellow cadets. 
Then and for the rest of his life he loved dancing, and he became 
another man hi the company of women; the icily commanding manner 
was defrosted and the hard look in the eyes melted amazingly. Pershing 
was attractive as well as attracted to the opposite sex, with his tall 
erect figure, dark blond hair, and gray-blue eyes. "He was a hop-goer," 
Bullard noted with disapproval, "what cadets called a 'spoony' man. 
He loved the society of women. That, too, like other early characteris- 
tics, seems to have held with him. . . ." 

Pershing was neither the best disciplined nor the most scholarly of 
his class, but his fellows and his instructors agreed that he was the 
most "soldierly." On graduation he stood No. 17 in discipline, most 
of his demerits being for tardiness in appearing for formations, a tend- 
ency which would hardly have surprised his old schoolmaster. This 
peculiar flaw in a man otherwise so sternly self-disciplined and so im- 
patient with his own and others' human frailties, this almost comic 
lack of time sense, was to become exaggerated, if anything, with the 
passage of the years and cause amusement and consternation, not to 
say vexation, from Paris to Tokyo; it was to confound important per- 
sonages who had never been kept waiting in all their lives; but it was 
never to be cured. 

In scholastic standing he ranked No. 30 in a class of seventy-seven 


survivors. The French class was the scene of his bitterest torments, 
which would have been no surprise to those who watched and listened 
to his struggles with the language many years later in France. His class- 
mate Walcott told of coming upon Pershing "immersed in his French 
books" with "an expression of hopelessness and discouragement that 
indicated he felt he would sink." The Missouri twang was an insub- 
stantial foundation for attempting the intricacies of French pronun- 

Sometimes he foundered hi English, too, according to Walcott, and 
occasionally his recitations in that class were "painful." Walcott re- 
called that once Pershing was called upon to discuss "pseudo-meta- 
phors" and "made a great struggle to clarify the subject . . . great 
beads of perspiration standing out on his forehead." Pershing col- 
lapsed ignominiously when the instructor finally rapped out in exas- 
peration, "Mr. Pershing, what is a pseudo-metaphor?" He could only 
run up the white flag and sit down. 

Perhaps the solemnest moment of his cadet career came in his fourth 
year at the Point. General Grant's funeral train rolled down from Al- 
bany, where he had lain in state, and passed through the West Point 
station of Garrison, across the Hudson from the Academy. As the 
black-draped train slowly passed on its way to New York City, the 
whole undergraduate battalion with Cadet Captain Pershing at its head 
stood at present arms. It could hardly have occurred to him that in 
character and military aptitude, even to some extent in personality, he 
would more closely resemble Grant than any other eminent American 
commander ... but his fate on the whole was kinder. He managed 
to escape the presidency. 

Thus in the spring of 1886, commissioned a second lieutenant in 
the cavalry by President Grover Cleveland, his ill-defined hopes for a 
legal career deferred at least temporarily, he entered the Regular Army, 
then an establishment of less than 25,000 officers and men, with the 
Indians all but pacified and war not even a smudge on the horizon. 
It was a career that most young men would have regarded as the stark- 
est of dead ends. But Pershing entered on the professional military life 
with hope and enthusiasm; he and his classmates celebrated their gradu- 
ation in high glee with a dinner at Delmonico's the night of June 12, 
with Pershing at the head of the table as class president. 

Their high spirits evidently were still undampened when he and sev- 
eral of his fellows entrained for Fort Bayard in New Mexico, the head- 


quarters of the 6th Cavalry, to which they were posted. On the train 
from brawling Dodge City, over the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, 
"we told stories, sang class songs, cleaned out eating houses, fired at 
prairie dogs, hazed the peanut boy, and practically ran the train," 
Pershing related. "Our stories came to be such chestnuts [that is, stale 
jokes] that Bean bought an old-fashioned doorbell which was used as 
a chestnut bell with which we had great fun. . . ." Apparently the 
antics of the young officers bound for their first post palled on at least 
one of their fellow passengers because "the bell was retired" after a 
train-riding cowboy grimly objected to its clamor. None of the high- 
spirited young men cared to shoot it out with this dour specimen, nor 
to risk having a brawl with a civilian the first entry on their records. 

Pershing's first assignment landed him hi the heart of the Apache 
country during the last campaign against the dissident Apache chiefs, 
the most notable and possibly the most ferocious of whom was Ge- 
ronimo. Months before, Geronimo, roaring drunk on mescal, had fled 
the reservation with his braves and struck terror into settlements in 
New Mexico, Arizona, and Old Mexico with his cunning and merciless 
raids, killing, burning, and torturing. The Army eventually gathered up 
a total of 5000 troops to run down less than a tenth of their number- 
but they were Apaches and Geronimo was their leader. They kept duck- 
ing back and forth across the international boundary until both Ameri- 
can and Mexican governments agreed that the U.S. forces would be 
allowed to follow the Apaches into Mexico when and if necessary. 

In April of 1886 General George Crook, whom Commanding Gen- 
eral Philip H. Sheridan did not believe was ruthless enough in his 
operations, requested that he be relieved of command. He was re- 
placed by Nelson A. Miles, one of the more successful Indian-fighting 
generals on the frontier, who had been the youngest corps commander 
in the Union Army. General Miles said later that he "adopted the 
same methods used to capture bands of wild horses years ago on the 
plains of Texasby constantly pursuing, putting in fresh relays and 
finally wearing them down." 

His first need was a device for speeding and maintaining communi- 
cations, since the Apaches shrewdly persisted in chopping down tele- 
graph poles. The heliostat, later known as the heliograph, was the in- 
strument of his choice; it was a mirror mounted on a tripod which, 
by reflecting sunlight, could flash messages in Morse code for fifty or 
more miles. Years before, an English officer in the Indian Army had 


invented the heliostat, and it had worked out well there. Miles also 
had tested it during campaigns in the Northwest. Placing heliostat sta- 
tions on twenty-seven mountain peaks in Arizona and New Mexico, 
with signalers and infantry guards at each station, Miles was enabled 
to keep watch over a 600 square mile area, transmitting and relaying 
more than 2000 messages during the Geronimo campaign and pushing 
his troops in for the kill on orders blinked in Morse code over the 

Lieutenant Pershing's first job was taking command of a detach- 
ment charged with locating a line of heliostat stations between Forts 
Bayard and Stanton. It was dangerous work, since the Apache bands 
still hadn't been brought under control and were striking like forked 
lightning over the desert floor, attacking settlements, stage stops, water 
holes, and cavalry patrols. Later, when the chain of heliostat stations 
was in working order, he was placed in command of a pack train which 
took supplies to isolated posts throughout the Apache country. It was 
brutal work. At any moment his mule train and escort of a dozen or 
so troopers might be ambushed. Every arroyo, mesa, and clump of 
brush might conceal a war party. All along his route smoke signals 
the Apache equivalent of the heliostat and almost as effective rose 
from high ground, tracing his progress. Pershing and his troopers 
would spend sixteen hours a day in the saddle, hurrying through the 
hostile country, and at night when the supply-laden aparejo would be 
slipped off their mules' backs the animals would collapse in puddles 
of their own sweat. Eventually Lieutenant Pershing was commended 
for "having accomplished a particularly fine piece of work" in main- 
taining the supply lines. 

His only brush with the Apache raiders occurred one day while 
he was waiting at Fort Wingate to take out another pack train. A 
wounded cowhand rode into the fort with news of a night raid on the 
ranch where he was employed. Scores of hostiles were circling the 
place, to which the cowhand and a number of his friends had re- 
paired after pursuing and catching several cattle thieves. Now thieves 
and honest cowhands alike were holed up and facing a common fate. 
A troop was placed under Pershing's command to ride to the ranch 
and rescue the besieged. When they approached the place, Pershing 
ordered his patrol to attack in extended order so the Apaches would 
be given the impression they were confronted with a superior force, 
especially since Pershing and his command swept down on them from 


a hillside at their rear. The Apaches were taken by surprise and chased 
away; the ranch party was rescued, with several dead among them. 
And there was an unsentimental footnote to the affair; the cattle 
thieves, though they had helped drive off the raiders, were duly 

Pershing was learning the cavalryman's trade under the pressure of 
active campaigning. A photograph taken of him with the officers of 
the 6th Cavalry, their wives, and children indicated a hardening in 
the smiling cadet of only a few months before. He was lounging on the 
porch of the officers' quarters with his arms around a little girl, his 
face leaner, older, and tougher. He had grown a blondish beard and 
mustache and looked every inch the veteran cavalryman. (One of the 
features of his inveterate professionalism was his striking ability to 
look the part, whether he was suddenly called upon to perform as a 
military attach6 abroad, lead a cavalry column into some wild in- 
terior, or command a group of armies.) With his cape thrown back 
over his shoulders and his cap with the crossed sabers tilted over one 
eye, he looked as though he had spent at least ten years chasing Apache 
war parties. 

The hard-nosed quality in Pershing was conveyed to the men under 
his command very early in his career. It was an Old Army legend that 
shortly after his arrival at Fort Bayard one of his troopers took ex- 
ception to his insistence on Academy standards of discipline and 
obedience, which were somewhat more rigid than those of a frontier 
regiment. Pershing's only recourse, as with the redheaded farmer in the 
schoolyard at Prairie Mound, was to show him who was the better 
man with his fists, although a fight between an officer and an enlisted 
man was theoretically taboo. Pershing won, of course; he always 
won in any contest over his right to command, whether it was over the 
polished wood of a conference table or the trampled straw behind 
the stables. Robert Lee Bullard, who was stationed nearby, heard of 
the bare-knuckle encounter and years later recollected that Pershing 
had been challenged by his subordinates only twice in his career "once 
by one who, as I heard, was convinced by Second Lieutenant Pershing 
in his shirt-sleeves, and once, I knew, by one who within forty-eight 
hours had paid with his life for his disobedience to Captain Pershing 
-dying of cholera. I buried him." 

It didn't take long for Pershing to acquire the reputation through- 
out the small Regular Army of being a hard but fair young officer. 


Some years later he would be called Black Jack Pershing, which seemed 
a perfect description of his forceful character. Men learning that they 
were to fall under his command knew what to expect, what was ex- 
pected of them, and conducted themselves accordingly. The other side 
of the coin was the fact that Pershing looked after his men more dili- 
gently than most officers, keeping a close watch over their food, equip- 
ment, living quarters, and sanitation the mark of the best kind of 
company officer. 

As soon as he had the troops firmly in hand, he turned his atten- 
tion to more scholarly matters in his spare time. He absented himself 
from the poker games at the post trader's store, after becoming so 
fascinated with the game that "I began seeing poker hands in my 
sleep." Boozing had never appealed to him, popular as it was in the 
frontier posts. In place of those amusements he read his way through 
the post library and devoted himself to learning the Indian dialects 
from tame Apaches and civilian scouts hanging around the fort. Soon 
he was able to speak in the Apache tongue and had mastered the sign 
language which was the lingua franca of the Plains. Only a handful 
of officers took their profession that seriously. 

After sixteen months of rugged campaigning, of ambushes and fire 
fights in the mountains, of forced marches so grueling that even the 
mules couldn't stand the pace, General Miles's flying column com- 
manded by Captain Henry W. Lawton of the 4th Cavalry drove 
Geronimo and less than a hundred of his followers to the end of 
their resources high in the Sierra Madre. Geronimo agreed to surrender 
and was sent into exile in Florida, then a sort of American Devil's 
Island, along with his die-hard followers and their families. 

General Miles was not entirely satisfied with the Army's perform- 
ance in that campaign or the fact that it took one year and four months 
for 5000 troops to round up a handful of unruly Indians. He called 
for large-scale maneuvers during the autumn of 1887, only a few 
months after active campaigning ceased. The handsome, white-maned, 
and egocentric Miles did not distribute compliments lavishly among 
his subordinates, but he found occasion to praise Lieutenant Pershing 
for "marching his troops with a pack train of 140 mules in forty-six 
hours and bringing in every animal in good condition." Pershing's 
long and intimate knowledge of the Missouri mule, first acquired from 
behind a plow, enabled him to take his first step up the ladder of 


He was soon transferred to command of a troop at Fort Stanton, 
and again distinguished himself in the "raiding games" ordained for 
the instruction of young company officers by the department com- 
mander. One lieutenant and his troop would be assigned to enact the 
roles of Apache raiders, and another would be detailed to their pursuit. 
Colonel Eugene A. Carr, commander of the 6th Cavalry, singled out 
Pershing as one of the more vigorous troop commanders. 

At Stanton, Pershing became acquainted with a number of ranchers 
and their families who had their spreads along Eagle Creek, to the 
south and west of the fort. Among them were Pat Garrett, the ex- 
sheriff of Lincoln County, and John Poe, a former cattle detective. 
Half a dozen years earlier, with one of Garrett's deputies, the two men 
had stealthily approached the main building on Pete Maxwell's ranch 
at old Fort Sumner in search of an elusive young man named William 
H. Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid, and Garrett had shot and 
killed the Kid hi Maxwell's bedroom. Pershing met Garrett and Poe 
when they came to Fort Stanton to pick up their mail and frequently 
visited them and their families at their ranches on Eagle Creek. 

Poe's wife, Sophie, remembered Pershing as a friendly and unaf- 
fected young man. He and two other young lieutenants were known to 
the people in the neighborhood as "The Three Green Peas," who went 
riding around the countryside in their off-duty hours, exploring the 
desert and foothills under the white peaks of the Sierra Blanca. One 
of the places they often visited was a roadside inn kept by Mr. and 
Mrs. Frank Lisnet. Once they went boar hunting and shot one of Mrs. 
Lisnet's pigs under the misapprehension that it was a wild and fero- 
cious tusker. Mrs. Lisnet gave them a dressing down that fairly crisped 
the air around them; however, they soon managed to re-establish 
themselves in the Irish lady's good graces. 

Almost thirty years later, a brigadier general with a distinguished 
record, Pershing stopped off at Roswell to inspect the New Mexico 
Military Institute. He heard that the Lisnets were living in Roswell 
and went to look them up. 

Mrs. Poe said that Pershing approached Mrs. Lisnet with a smile, 
saying, "How do you do, Mrs. Lisnet! Remember me?" 

"Sure and that I do," replied the old lady. "You're the lieutenant 
that was always killing me pigs!" 

During his stay at Fort Stanton, Pershing was visited by his sisters 
May and Grace. Trotting unmarried female relatives around the post 


was then one of the duties of a young officer. Lieutenant Paddock, 
one of the "Three Green Peas," was taken with Grace and they were 
soon married. A little more than ten years later Grace was widowed 
when Paddock was killed in China during the Boxer Rebellion. 

On May 9, 1889, Pershing was given a mission both delicate and 
dangerous by Colonel Carr. Three white men had raided the Zuni 
reservation for horses and killed three Indians while trying to make 
their escape. The three horse thieves were tracked down and sur- 
rounded by 150 Zunis in a building on the S Ranch. Pershing was 
sent from Fort Wingate with ten troopers as an escort to stop the battle. 
He persuaded the enraged Indians to call off their attacks, then crept 
up to the cabin where the white men were holed up. Kicking in the door, 
he confronted the three renegades with a revolver in his hand. He 
promised them safe conduct past the encircling Indians, and their situa- 
tion being hopeless under siege they agreed to accompany him. The 
Indians accepted Pershing's word that the renegades would be pun- 
ished. Pershing brought the thieves safely to the Fort Wingate guard- 
house, where they were held for trial. 

He spent a little more than four years commanding a troop in the 
6th Cavalry at Forts Stanton, Bayard, and Wingate. Then, late in 
1890, the nation had its last big Indian scare. Again the Sioux threat- 
ened to rebel against the relentless encroachments of the white man. 
Setting off the uprising was a religious craze called the Ghost Dance, 
which spread through most of the Indian tribes in the West, but af- 
fected the Sioux most strongly. The Indians believed that the second 
coming of Christ was at hand, but this time the Messiah would be 
an Indian, who would disperse the whites, bring back the buffalo, and 
restore the ancient freedom of the Plains. Sitting Bull, the symbol of 
Sioux resistance, went along with the Ghost Dance propaganda. Two 
years before, the old Sioux who had been one of the leaders at the 
Little Big Horn when the 7th Cavalry was shattered had blocked the 
sale of 11,000,000 acres of Sioux land at fifty cents an acre. Now 
the whites would have their revenge. Washington decided that Sitting 
Bull and his few hundred followers at Grand River must be disarmed. 

What followed was simply a merciless police action in the winter- 
locked badlands on the Dakota-Nebraska border. "If the so-called 
Messiah was to appear in that country, Sitting Bull had better be out 
of it," as Miles, the commanding general, cynically put it. In justifiable 
anticipation of trouble over the old chief's arrest, Miles ordered troops 


from Chicago to San Francisco concentrated at and near the Pine 
Ridge Agency in South Dakota, a mobilization aided by the fact that 
the Burlington Road's lines penetrated deep into the Sioux country. 

Early in December 1890 the 6th Cavalry received its marching or- 
ders, concentrating at Albuquerque for the long train ride north to the 
railhead at Fort Niobrara, Nebraska, just south of the Dakota line 
and the Rosebud Agency. Pershing and his regiment formed part of 
the picket fence around the Sioux country, a cordon which was to seal 
off the hostiles until they decided to surrender. 

On the night of December 14, Sitting Bull was shot to death by an 
Indian Police sergeant as he was being hauled out of his cabin at 
Grand River. A battle broke out between the arresting force and his 
followers, and the thirty-two day "war" against the Sioux was on. Its 
sorry culmination was the so-called Battle of Wounded Knee, Decem- 
ber 29, when upwards of 150 men, women, and children of Big Foot's 
band were slaughtered. All over the vast, snow-covered reservation 
for the next several days there were skirmishes and running battles 
as bands of Sioux warriors tried to break through the Army's cordon. 
Pershing and his comrades on the outer perimeter took part in two 
brief skirmishes with the hostiles as they patrolled the ice-slicked line 
of the railroad south of the reservation. 

Now commanding a company of Sioux scouts, Pershing was pa- 
trolling Little Grass Creek a few miles from Daly's ranch when they 
were attacked on January 1, 1891, by Kicking Bear and his band, 
who were close to starvation and hoping to raid one of the nearby 
ranches for food. Pershing and his command drove them off, killing 
four of the hostiles. The brief skirmish provided the first combat cita- 
tion on Pershing's record "Action near mouth of Little Grass Creek, 
South Dakota, January 1, 1891." Pershing later wrote that he "found 
much that was fine in Indian character" while commanding the com- 
pany of Sioux scouts. 

Two weeks later, sick and starving, the Sioux decided that the Mes- 
siah would not be coming to their rescue, and there was a mass sur- 
render at the Pine Ridge Agency. The last of the Indian wars was over. 
To impress the Sioux further with the white man's military power, a 
review of all the troops participating in the campaign was held at Pine 
Ridge. Then Pershing, with Troop A, and four other troops of the 
6th Cavalry were sent back to Fort Niobrara. On the march they were 
overtaken by a blizzard which smothered the Dakota country and 


took many lives. Fortunately Pershing saw to it that his men were 
equipped with canvas overcoats, felt oversocks, and overshoes before 
they set out from the agency. Troop A long remembered how Lieu- 
tenant Pershing made certain that his troopers muffled their faces with 
towels, pegged down their tents securely, and were supplied with 
cooked rations on that march through the blizzard. Not a man was 
lost. Years later Sergeant Tom Stevenson, a Civil War veteran, told 
an interviewer, "That's the sort of officer Pershing was, always think- 
ing about his men, and that's why the men would do anything for him." 
When Pershing took up his next assignment, Colonel Carr briefly 
summed up his years with the 6th Cavalry in a fitness report which 
read: "Professional ability, most excellent; capacity for command, ex- 

2. A Silver Star for San Juan Hill 

Early in the nineties one of the most admired figures on the campus 
of the University of Nebraska, a land-grant school in Lincoln, was a 
keen-eyed young man whose back was straight as a slide rule and who 
marched from building to building as though their ivyless walls en- 
closed a parade ground. Against all odds, the young man had won the 
respect of the faculty and was idolized by the student body. One of 
his admirers was a young lady named Dorothy Canfield, the daughter 
of Dr. James Hulme Canfield, the president of the university. As Doro- 
thy Canfield Fisher, she was to become a celebrated novelist and essay- 
ist. One of the more impressive memories of her student years was how 
Second Lieutenant John J, Pershing assumed the rather despised post 
of Professor of Military Science and Tactics, as well as Commandant 
of Cadets, and made something of it. The school, under terms of its 
government grant, was required to place an army officer on its faculty, 
but until then none of Pershing's predecessors had succeeded in making 
anyone like the idea. Until Pershing's appearance, President Canfield 
noted that "interest in the battalion was weak, the discipline next to 
nothing, and the instincts of the faculty and the President of the Uni- 
versity against the Corps." 

Pershing had heard of the vacancy through his brother Jim, a cloth- 
ing salesman, like his father, with headquarters hi Lincoln, and applied 
for it through channels. In September of 1891 he was assigned to the 
post. The assignment was regarded among his fellow officers as a 
sinecure, and Pershing was congratulated on being given a long vaca- 
tion with pay. Nominally his duties would include a few hours on the 
drill field and a few more in the classroom. Otherwise his time would 


be his own. He could expect to be greeted with even more contempt 
and indifference than was the military man's usual lot among civilians, 
but doubtless he could find ways to amuse himself off-campus. 

Pershing, however, had decided that if he could learn to get along 
with the sullen conquered Apaches of the Southwest he ought to be 
able to win the confidence of paleface college boys in Nebraska. Ob- 
viously it wasn't going to be easy; only a few men were still willing to 
come out for drill, and his classes in military science and tactics were 
composed of a few yawning, sleepy-eyed students. Amid the general 
apathy, Pershing decided to show the student body and the faculty 
that a professional soldier wasn't necessarily a red-faced dolt dream- 
ing of old battles. He immediately informed President Canfield that 
he was there both to teach and to learn. The school was short of mathe- 
matics instructors, so he volunteered to take classes in that subject in 
addition to his prescribed duties. (Among his students were Dorothy 
Canfield and Willa Gather, but as he commented later, "I doubt that 
the study of mathematics gave either one of them a taste for litera- 
ture.") Furthermore, he entered the law school, still determined to 
fulfill his ambition to be admitted to the bar. 

He was still fond of dancing and attended most of the students' 
social affairs. At thirty-one, he was a good ten years older than most 
of the students, but he cut a fine figure on the dance floor, partnering 
with all the coeds impartially and rarely dancing with any girl more 
than once in an evening. He was both too discreet and too ambitious 
to become involved emotionally, though "crushes" on a young instruc- 
tor were an unofficial part of the curriculum. 

More and more of the men began volunteering for the cadet bat- 
talion. Inobtrusively, and partly through the visible admiration of the 
coeds for Lieutenant Pershing, he managed to invest the military with 
a certain amount of glamour, and his recruits were no longer regarded 
as servile clods marching to the orders of a stiff-necked West Pointer. 

Not that he relaxed discipline in the battalion to make it more at- 
tractive; on the contrary, he made it stricter. Athletic Director Best 
(in an interview with a New York Times correspondent during World 
War I) recalled that Pershing took his cadets in hand the first day 
they reported for drill : 

"It had been their habit before this time to come to drill with shoes 
blackened or not, just as they pleased. When Pershing took hold the 
first thing he looked at was to see that all shoes were well blackened and 


that the heels looked as good as the toes. He was just that thorough- 
going in everything all the time." 

Best said that Pershing was "mighty dignified in his work, but he 
had a way of getting next to the new men." And he added: 

"I just worshipped that man and everybody around the University 
felt the same about him." 

One of Pershing's cadets, William Hayward, who became a colonel 
and commanding officer of the 15th New York Infantry during World 
War I, recalled that "Pershing was as severe a disciplinarian as a 
kindly man can be. He was always just. He had no pets. Punishments 
for derelictions of duty came no swifter than his rewards for faithful 
performance. . -. . Lieutenant Pershing had a very keen though grim 
sense of humor. How he laughed when we appeared for the first time in 
white duck trousers as part of our uniform. They were made under con- 
tract from measure by a concern which made tents and awnings, and 
the goods must have been cut out with a circular saw." 

In his mathematics class as well as the drill field Pershing was a 
sympathetic and intuitively helpful instructor. One of the shyest boys 
in school, as his sister afterward told an interviewer, was asked to stay 
after the class was dismissed one day. The boy, tongued-tied as usual 
in recitation, had failed to finish his demonstration of a problem at 
the blackboard. But Pershing told him, "All that kept you from work- 
ing out that problem was your nervousness. I have marked you as 
though you had succeeded." In subsequent after-class sessions, his sis- 
ter said, Pershing "braced him up and put him on the road to self- 

Off-campus, Pershing also made friends. Grimly and typically mili- 
tary though he seemed in later life, he had a broader range of interests 
than most of his fellow officers, and a much greater talent for friend- 
ship with civilians, which most of his comrades avoided in preference 
to the closed-in and somewhat stifling society of Officers' Row, the 
regimental mess, and the post trader's saloon. Pershing not only had 
very little anti-civilian prejudice but was still thinking seriously of re- 
turning to civil life; instead of regarding the civilian with suspicion 
and a touch of contempt, he was curious about other people, the way 
they lived and thought. 

Pershing also had the valuable knack of forming associations with 
men on the rise, like himself, or perhaps it was the mutual attraction of 


men of aspiration and ambition. Such men, caught in the backwater 
of the Nebraska capital, would naturally be drawn together. 

After classes and drill were over for the day, he often dropped in at 
the law office of Charles E. Magoon, the future governor general of 
Cuba. Another firm and long-lasting friendship was formed in Lin- 
coln with Charles G. Dawes, also a young lawyer, who in a remarkably 
short time was to leave his inconsequential practice in the frontier 
capital, make his way upward in Chicago financial circles, and even- 
tually land in the vice-presidency under Calvin Coolidge. 

Pershing and Dawes fell into the habit of dining together at Don 
Cameron's ten-cent lunch counter, where they discussed the law and 
the possibility of Pershing's hanging out his shingle once he received 
his degree at the university. The affection and respect engendered in 
those bull sessions over Cameron's bean suppers resulted more than 
twenty years later in Pershing's reaching down into an engineers regi- 
ment and selecting Dawes to supervise all the American Expeditionary 
Force's purchases in Europe. 

Dawes was tall and loose-limbed, easygoing and gregarious; had a 
big nose and a wide humorous mouth, red hair and a rather absurd 
but currently fashionable handle-bar mustache; and was amiably in- 
clined toward the dandyism of that decade. He was a great talker and 
Pershing a great listener, a perfect combination in a time and place 
where men had to depend on their own resources for entertainment. 
A native of Marietta, Ohio, he was the son of General Rufus Dawes, 
who had served hi Congress with William McKinley, a family friend 
who in 1898 would appoint the younger Dawes as his Comptroller of 
Currency. Most people thought Dawes something of a lightweight, 
with few of the steelier qualities required for success, and even the 
usually perceptive Mark Hanna remarked after his first meeting with 
him, "He doesn't look much, does he?" Pershing saw that there was 
much more to the young Ohioan than a talent for conversation and 
a fondness for expletives which were to become one of the more color- 
ful adornments of the Coolidge administration. 

At the end of his second year as drillmaster of the university cadets, 
Pershing was so confident of his battalion that he entered it in the inter- 
state competitive drill, placing it on display against the crack com- 
panies of many other schools. To everyone's surprise, Nebraska won 
the silver cup and $1500 in prize money for its efforts, allowing Presi- 
dent Canfield to boast, "We have the second best corps of cadets in 


the United States according to the reports of the United States in- 
spectors, the first being the corps at West Point. Lieutenant Pershing 
made the corps what it is today." That same year Pershing was given 
his first promotion, to first lieutenant, after a half dozen years' service 
in the lowest commissioned rank. 

In the last year of his assignment at the University of Nebraska, 
President Canfield wrote the War Department a letter of praise for 
Pershing that was rarely surpassed in his later career. "I know some- 
thing about the duties of his position, and I know something about 
officers of the army. I speak with both experience and observation, 
therefore, when I say without the slightest reserve that he is the most 
energetic, active and industrious, competent and successful I have ever 
known in a position of this kind. . . . 

"While he has been here he has taught three hours a day in mathe- 
matics, with just as much success as he has conducted his work as 
Commandant. He is thorough in everything he undertakes, a gentle- 
man by instinct and breeding, clean, straightforward, with an unusually 
bright mind; and peculiarly just and true in all his dealings. In addi- 
tion to his work as instructor and his official duties, he has carried the 
course in our law school, and graduated last week with high standing. 
He is a man of broad outlook who sees things in their true relations, 
and who desires to know and be more than he is." 

University life apparently encouraged second thoughts about his fu- 
ture career. He had been admitted to the bar of Nebraska and was 
seriously considering the possibility of resigning his commission and 
taking up a law career. 

There were several factors influencing him, in addition to the new- 
found attractiveness of civilian life. Inwardly he had never been fully 
committed to a lifetime of soldiering. He had entered West Point be- 
cause it offered a more complete education, had stayed in the Army 
because he felt that he owed it to the government. But there were 
facets of a military career that he found repellent its narrowness, its 
caste consciousness, its smug self-sufficiency. The romantic aspects of 
soldiering on the frontier escaped him completelythough as an old 
man he recalled those days with a nostalgic affection and the prospect 
of spending endless years policing the Indian reservations was any- 
thing but inviting. Furthermore, his mother still hoped that he would 
leave the Army; soldiering to her was the memory of her brother being 
brought back maimed and helpless from the siege of Vicksburg. 


There were also more practical reasons for leaving the service. He 
was still a lieutenant at thirty-five an age at which a man is supposed 
to make sure of his course before it's too late to change and he had 
grave cause to wonder whether he had any real future in the Army. 
Promotion was so slow that many captains were white-haired. A num- 
ber of his classmates who had resigned their commissions, on the other 
hand, were successful in civil life. 

Yet the odds were all against resignation from the Army. West 
Pointers, it is evident from Academy records, either leave shortly after 
graduation or serve until retirement. Pershing had sunk too deeply into 
the familiar rut, though his university experience had temporarily per- 
suaded him otherwise. Hanging out his shingle at his age wouldn't 
be easy either, and besides he apparently realized that his reserved 
temperament was ill-suited to the rough and tumble of provincial 
courtrooms. It was a hard decision, but Pershing finally came to the 
conclusion that the Army was his fate. He had hated crooked furrows 
as a young plowboy, and that prejudice remained with him. Never 
again was he tempted to change professions. 

In the spring of 1 895, just before leaving the University of Nebraska, 
he learned that there was a vacant captaincy in the Quartermaster 
Corps. He wanted that post because he might have to wait for years 
for another promotion in the cavalry; besides, in the event of a still 
unforeseen war, he could always transfer back to a line regiment. Gen- 
erals Miles and Merritt supported his application, but Adjutant Gen- 
eral Henry C. Corbin and his fellow bureaucrats still ruled the Army 
and to their clerkly minds a cavalryman ought to stick to his trade. 
Application denied. 

Instead he spent a year at Fort Assinboine, Montana Territory, com- 
manding a troop in the 10th (Negro) Cavalry, much of it in rounding 
up 600 renegade Crees and escorting them over the Canadian border. 
Then Miles, now general in chief, summoned him to Washington as 
his aide-de-camp. General Miles's sponsorship was valuable in at 
least one respect: he saw to it that Pershing was posted to West Point 
as an assistant instructor, an assignment which suggested that an offi- 
cer was capable of thinking as well as fighting. 

Before he began his year at West Point, another of those fortuitous 
meetings with an upcoming man occurred. Perhaps no other encounter 
of his career was so important to its advancement. General Miles sent 
him to observe a military tournament at Madison Square Garden in 


New York during January 1897. His classmate, Avery D. Andrews, 
who had resigned his commission and was serving on the Board of 
Police Commissioners with Theodore Roosevelt, had taken a box for 
the tournament and invited Pershing to be his guest. 

Roosevelt, busily cleaning up the graft-ridden New York Police De- 
partment then but soon to be appointed Assistant Secretary of the 
Navy, was another guest in the Andrews box. He and Pershing hit it 
off immediately, as was entirely predictable. Roosevelt was the premier 
western buff of all time, and not the least of Pershing's fascination 
for him was his facility with the Indian dialects. They spent more time 
swapping stories and comparing linguistic notes than watching the 
maneuvers on the tanbark that evening. "Both were enthusiastic and 
expert horsemen and both had seen much of the West," as Andrews 
recalled. "Both knew the Indians and the Indian Country, and both 
spoke the language of the plains and mountains. They spent the eve- 
ning in a lively exchange of views and stories of the West and formed 
a friendship which lasted through life." 

From then on, in and out of the White House, Roosevelt followed 
Pershing's career with great interest and sympathy, and his conviction 
that Pershing was destined to become one of the country's ablest mili- 
tary leaders resulted in the key promotion of the latter's career. With- 
out that meeting at Madison Square Garden, Pershing's life would 
have been vastly different. 

As a tactical officer at West Point, Pershing was considerably less 
popular than he had been at the University of Nebraska. He was 
charged with the immediate supervision and discipline of the cadets 
and believed that the Academy's standards of order and obedience 
should be kept at the same level as when he was a cadet. 

Company A of the Cadet Corps, which was his immediate respon- 
sibility, chafed under Pershing's relentless demands and frequently 
abrasive personality. Being healthy young Americans, they plotted mis- 
chief against their taskmaster. Some of the cadets of Company A bal- 
anced a bucket of water on a door, placing it so that Pershing would 
be doused. That particular trick had whiskers on it when Pershing was 
a cadet himself, and he spotted the trap before it could be sprung. He 
ordered a janitor to remove it and said nothing. The matter would 
have ended there, presumably, except that the janitor did not under- 
stand that he was walking into a trap and inadvertently became the 
victim of the cadets' prank. Soaking wet and thoroughly enraged, the 


janitor complained to the authorities. Each member of Company A 
was summoned before the superintendent and questioned, but none 
would say who was responsible. The whole company was sentenced to 
thirty days' confinement. 

First his own company and then the whole corps took to calling 
Pershing "Nigger Jack" well out of hearing. This, of course, referred 
to his service with the colored troops of the 10th Cavalry. Later the 
sobriquet was tidied up and became "Black Jack." The whole army 
adopted it, possibly because many thought it compared him to the 
small blunt instrument known as the "blackjack." In any case, it fol- 
lowed him through the dignities of high command to his grave. 

Pershing had spent less than a year as a West Point instructor when 
the war with Spain broke out. The mysterious sinking of the battleship 
Maine in Havana harbor, the sympathy for Cubans rebelling against 
the harsh Spanish colonial rule, and the national enthusiasm for join- 
ing the other great powers in acquiring colonieswith Cuba, Puerto 
Rico, and the Philippines rich prizes to be loosened from the palsied 
grip of the Spanish Empire all contributed to the declaration of war 
on April 25, 1898. The ethics of that declaration did not concern 
Pershing any more than it did the majority of his fellow citizens; his 
main consideration was getting away from the classroom and into the 
fighting. The thought of sitting out the war on the palisades of the 
Hudson while his fellow officers were winning glory and promotion 
in the Caribbean and the Pacific was maddening. 

Yet regulations, it seemed, would keep him at West Point even while 
the Army in the field needed every experienced officer to train and 
lead its combat forces, and while the Regular Army was doubled in 
size and the President was calling for an additional 125,000 volun- 
teers. Theodore Roosevelt, raising the regiment of Rough Riders with 
Leonard Wood as its colonel and himself as its more prominent sec- 
ond in command, bitterly remarked on "fat old colonels who fall off 
their horses or cannot stand a five-mile march." Yet a young and 
vigorous, highly trained and widely experienced officer like Pershing 
was to be kept out of action. The War Department bureaucracy had 
ruled that no officer was to be detached from the Academy's faculty 
to serve in the field. 

Pershing considered resigning his commission and joining either 
Roosevelt's Rough Riders few people thought of the regiment as 


Wood's although he was its nominal commander or joining his class- 
mate Andrews in the New York National Guard. 

Instead he obtained permission from West Point's sympathetic su- 
perintendent, Major Oswald H. Ernst, to go to Washington and plead 
his case. He went over Adjutant General Corbin's head, probably with 
an assist from General in chief Miles, and pleaded for return to regi- 
mental duty before Secretary of War Russell A. Alger, himself a cav- 
alry veteran of the Civil War. His appeal was persuasive enough for 
Alger to override his bureau chiefs and send Pershing back to the 10th 
Cavalry. Since there was no troop command vacant, he was attached 
to Colonel Baldwin's staff as quartermaster. 

Watching and .participating in the weirdly incompetent embarkation 
of the expeditionary force for Cuba early in the summer of 1898 must 
have been an invaluable experience for Pershing, a lesson to be re- 
called when he launched his own expeditionary forces in the Philip- 
pines, Mexico, and France. He arrived in Tampa, Florida, just in time 
to accompany his Negro cavalry regiment in the landing on Cuban 

The sorry history of that movement does not require much recapitu- 
lation except in relation to Pershing's education in how not to conduct 
an operation overseas. Practically everything went wrong. By mid- June 
Major General William R. Shafter, as commander of V Corps, which 
was to undertake the invasion, had managed to scrape together only 
16,000 men, and barely enough transports, civilian and naval, to carry 
that many to the unmapped and unreconnoitered Cuban shore. Most 
of the troops wore the Old Army's blue flannel for summer campaign- 
ing in the tropics; only the Rough Riders were suitably clad in light- 
weight khaki. The canned beef was bluish; other rations were wormy 
or moldy. Virtually no preparations were made to handle the sick 
and wounded. Black powder was used to fire the American artillery's 
guns and the infantry's rifles (while the supposedly antiquated Span- 
ish Army was equipped with smokeless powder and modern Mauser 
rifles). When the first regiments were finally landed near the villages 
of Siboney and Daiquiri, the invading force was a tangled, seasick, 
and homesick mass, separated from their supplies, confused by a lack 
of leadership. General Shafter was a fat gouty old man who had to be 
boosted into the saddle from a platform; General Joe Wheeler was a 
frail and white-bearded, but high-spirited veteran of the Confederate 
cavalry, who led the cavalry division when he was able, and many of 


their juniors were equally unfit for service in a jungle campaign. Per- 
shing, however, loyally excused the miseries of the invasion as being 
due to the "inexperience of officers in transporting troops by water" 
and the "uncertainty as to whether or not the Spanish fleet was really 
confined in the harbor of Santiago." 

One of the first reactions of the liberators was that the Cuban rebel 
army, whom they had come to sustain, succor, and ally themselves 
with, was a contemptible rabble. The same attitude toward native 
allies, carried intact across the generations, was visible in the early 
stages of the Korean War. At first sight and in the first brief actions 
against the Spanish forces, the Americans decided that the Cubans 
were all too ready to leave the fighting to the newcomers. Pershing 
was more liberal-minded. "Ragged, some half naked, wearied from 
hunger, laden with huge earthen water pots, heavy packs and cook- 
ing utensils slung over their backs, armed with every conceivable pat- 
tern of gun, it is no wonder that they dared not face the deadly Mauser 
rifle; we ourselves had much less contempt for Spanish arms after we 
had met them face to face on the battle field." 

The idea behind the overland campaign one could hardly call it 
strategy since General Shafter himself said "there was no strategy about 
it" and his only concern was to "do it quick" was to march through 
the jungle, overwhelm the fortified ridges known collectively as San 
Juan Hill, and demand the surrender of the port city of Santiago. 
General Shafter, lying in a hammock with a malarial fever, was confi- 
dent that all opposition would be swept aside; he even rebuffed the 
offers of naval gun support from U.S. battleships at the mouth of 
Santiago harbor. The job, he felt, could be quickly and smartly handled 
by Lawton's infantry division, based on Daiquiri, and Wheeler's cav- 
alry division, headquartered at Siboney. The infantry was to take out 
El Caney, a fortified spur which jabbed into the flank of the proposed 
American advance, while the cavalry stormed San Juan Hill and its 
line of stone blockhouses. 

Dismounted, the cavalry slashed its way through the tropical forest, 
matted with vines and spiked with Spanish bayonet, and arrived in 
position several hours before the general advance scheduled for the 
morning of July 1. 

Before El Caney, to the north, U.S. batteries opened fire at day- 
light and the attack on the landward defenses of Santiago was under 
way. The 10th Cavalry and its Negro troopers waited to go into action 


with S. B. M. Young's brigade, which was to advance in two columns, 
the 1st and 10th Cavalry on the left, the Rough Riders on the right. 
The scene (as Pershing described it five months later in a well-wrought 
address before a Chicago church group) was "ideally beautiful; the 
sky was cloudless and the air soft and balmy; peace seemed to reign 
supreme, great palms towered here and there above the low jungle. 
It was a picture of a peaceful valley. There was a feeling that we had 
secretly invaded the Holy Land. The hush seemed to pervade all na- 
ture as though she held her bated breath in anticipation of the 

An artillery duel opened proceedings on the 10th Cavalry's front. 
"A slug of iron now and then fell among the surrounding bushes or 
buried itself deep in the ground near us. Finally a projectile from an 
unseen Spanish gun discharged a Hotchkiss piece, wounded two caval- 
rymen and smashed into the old sugar mill in our rear, whereupon the 
terrorized insurgents fled and were not seen again near the firing line 
until the battle was over." 

Pershing was standing at the roadside, watching a battery of field 
artillery crossing a stream and moving up to counter the Spanish bat- 
teries' fire, when he heard a young officer express his bitterness against 
the confusion and lack of direction attending the advance by denounc- 
ing General Shafter as a "fat old slob." Pershing was outraged; publicly 
criticizing a superior in the midst of a battle, no matter how great the 
provocation, was unthinkable to him. 

He rounded on the younger officer, demanding of him, "Why did 
you come into this war if you can't stand the gaff? War has always 
been this way. Did you expect to see the Old Man standing out here 
with a book in his hand, telling these mule-skinners how to handle 
their outfits? The fat Old Man you talk about is going to win this 
campaign. When he does, these things will be forgotten. It's the ob- 
jective which counts, not the incidents." Pershing was less than pro- 
phetic about the high-level incompetence of the Santiago campaign 
being "forgotten." The ubiquitous war correspondents there seemed 
to be one behind every tree, mostly wearing the Hearst colors kept 
the public at home informed of the rudderless careening in Cuba and 
it was all that Shafter's chief supporter, Secretary of War Alger, could 
do to fend off demands that he be superseded. 

Out of touch with V Corps headquarters, since Shafter had a direct 
cable and telegraph connection with Washington but none with his 


divisions at the front, the battle for Santiago proceeded on the initia- 
tive of the junior officers, the noncoms, and the troops themselves. 
Lawton's infantry got stuck in front of El Caney, but the two cavalry 
columns pushed on toward San Juan Hill. 

Without mentioning his own role in the assault on the fortified 
ridges, Pershing continued in his account: "Then the balloon [an ob- 
servation balloon sent aloft to report on any Spanish troop move- 
ments] had become lodged in the treetops above and the enemy had 
just begun to make a target of it. A converging fire from all the works 
within range opened up on us that was terrible in its effect. Our 
mounted officers dismounted and the men stripped off at the roadside 
everything possible and prepared for business." 

Meanwhile, the 71st New York Volunteers, badly officered, were 
moving up on the left to lend flank support to the dismounted caval- 
ry's attack on the ridges. Under heavy fire as they advanced through 
the jungle, they panicked and fled rearward for safety. Not even the 
threats and entreaties of the divisional commander and his staff could 
persuade them to move forward again. 

Pershing and the 10th Cavalry's Second Squadron, which he was 
accompanying as a possible replacement for any officer who fell in 
action, took shelter under the bank of the San Juan River and "stood 
in the water to our waists waiting orders to deploy. Remaining there 
under this galling fire of exploding shrapnel and deadly Mauser bul- 
lets the minutes seemed like hours. 

"General Wheeler and a part of his staff stood mounted a few min- 
utes in the middle of the stream. Just as I raised my hand to salute 
in passing up the stream to reach the squadron of my regiment, a 
piece of bursting shell struck between us and covered us both with 

"Pursuant to orders from its commander, with myself as guide, the 
Second Squadron of the 10th forced its way through wire fence and 
almost impenetrable thicket to its position. The regiment was soon 
deployed as skirmishers in an opening across the river to the right of 
the road and our line of skirmishers being partly visible from the en- 
emy's position, their fire was turned upon us and we had to lie down 
in the grass a few minutes for safety. Two officers of the regiment 
were wounded; here and there were frequent calls for the surgeon." 

Now the time had come for the direct assault on San Juan Hill, 
through barbed-wire entanglements (the first ever encountered by 


American troops, and a bitter surprise to them) and under heavy fire 
from the Spanish artillery and the riflemen crouching behind the slits 
of their blockhouses and in trenches snaking their way across the 
ridges. Three cavalry regiments made the charge the regulars of the 
1st and 10th, the volunteers of the Rough Riders. Theodore Roosevelt, 
waving his campaign hat a la Phil Sheridan, led the westerners in 
person, Leonard Wood being occupied with higher command duties, 
and charged right over the hill and into the White House. His Rough 
Riders, of course, received most of the glory, but the regular cavalry 
deserved at least an equal share of the credit. 

As Pershing recalled, "Through streams, tall grass, tropical under- 
growth, under barbed wire fences and over wire entanglements, re- 
gardless of casualties up the hill to the right, this gallant advance was 
made. As we appeared on the brow of the hill we found the Spaniards 
retreating only to take up a new position farther on, spitefully firing 
as they retreated and only yielding their ground inch by inch. 

"Our troopers halted and laid down but momentarily to get a breath 
and in the face of continued volleys soon formed for attack on the 
block houses and intrenchments on the second hill. This attack was 
supported by troops including some of the 10th who had originally 
moved to the left toward this second hill and had worked their way 
in groups slipping through the tall grass and bushes, crawling when 
casualties came too often, courageously facing a sleet of bullets, and 
now hung against the steep southern declivity ready to spring the few 
remaining yards into the teeth of the enemy. 

"The fire from the Spanish positions had doubled in intensity. 
There was a moment's lull and our line moved forward to the charge 
across the valley separating the two hills. Once begun it continued 
dauntless in its steady, dogged, persistent advance until like a mighty 
resistless challenge it dashed triumphant over the crest of the hill and 
firing a parting volley at the vanishing foe planted the silken standard 
on the enemy's breastworks and the Stars and Stripes over the block 
house on San Juan Hill to stay. 

"This was a time for rejoicing. It was glorious." 

Pershing also told of watching "a colored trooper stop at a trench 
filled with Spanish dead and wounded and gently raised the head of a 
wounded Spanish lieutenant and give him the last drop of water from 
his own canteen." The 10th Cavalry had lost half its officers and one 
fifth of its enlisted men in the charge uphill. The troopers had be- 


haved so gallantly that, Pershing said, their officers "could have taken 
our black heroes in our arms." In the Santiago campaign Pershing 
acquired a lif elong respect and affection for the Negro soldier. 

Next day the U.S. troops on San Juan and Kettle hills strengthened 
their positions. On the following day the fate of the Spanish forces in 
Santiago was sealed when the enemy fleet was destroyed hi attempting 
to escape from the harbor. A truce halted the fighting around the 
land defenses of the city, but "the rainy season had set in in earnest 
and the trenches at times were knee-deep with mud and water. The 
constant exposures to the heat and rain together with the strain of 
battle began to have its effect upon even the strongest of us. Our sick 
list gradually grew and the dreaded yellow fever appeared in our 
ranks; the field hospitals already overcrowded with wounded were 
compelled to accommodate the increasing number of fever patients; 
medical supplies and food for the sick were lacking. . . ." Mean- 
while, with the American Army succumbing to fever in its trenches 
and camps all the way back to Siboney and Daiquiri, negotiations 
were opened between General Shatter and the Spanish Army for sur- 
render of the city. Santiago was bombarded for two days by the U.S. 
artillery to help the Spanish commander make up his mind, with the 
American fleet's guns joining in offshore. The Spanish finally capit- 
ulated on July 16. 

In his account of the campaign, Pershing neglected to mention his 
own role in the fighting. It was not, however, ignored by his com- 
rades. Lieutenant John Bigelow, Jr., Troop D, reported he was 
"disabled by three bullet wounds received simultaneously" on the ap- 
proaches to San Juan Hill and Lieutenant Pershing took over his com- 
mand. Major T. J. Whit, commanding the Second Squadron, informed 
the Adjutant General's office hi his report dated November 28, 1898, 
that Pershing "was with the Second Squadron when passed on Sugar 
House Hill and during its advance on San Juan Hill he conducted 
himself in a most gallant and efficient manner." Colonel Baldwin, the 
regimental commander, cited Pershing for "untiring energy, faithful- 
ness and gallantry during this engagement." Even more enthusiastic 
was the brigade commander's praise. General S. B. M. Young, a Civil 
War veteran, declared that Pershing was "the coolest man under fire 
that I ever saw." 

The upshot was that Pershing was awarded the Silver Star, the 


second highest combat decoration, for "gallantry in action against the 
Spanish forces, Santiago, Cuba, July 1, 1898." 

He was also brevetted a major in the volunteers and, more im- 
portantly, promoted to captain in the Regular Army. 

Within a month Pershing was ordered back to Washington to duty 
in the War Department. His first post, assumed on August 18, was 
chief ordnance officer, which he held until December 20. Then he 
was assigned to organize the Bureau of Insular Affairs, which was to 
oversee the military administration of the islands wrested from the 

As head of this military government bureau, he fell under the close 
and favorable attention of Elihu Root, the prosperous New York law- 
yer who was appointed Secretary of War to succeed Russell A. Alger, 
the moribund condition of the War Department having been harshly 
revealed to President McKinley in the supply, organization, and di- 
rection of the Cuban campaign. Root was a deceptive man, mild and 
modest in appearance, with his hair worn in thick bangs over an in- 
tellectual forehead. But underneath the detached and professorial 
manner was an incisive and ruthlessly efficient mind; only occasionally 
his face relaxed in what one associate called a "frank and murderous 
smile." There were protests against the appointment of a corporation 
lawyer without military experience to direct the War Department, but 
the President insisted that he had to "have a lawyer to direct the gov- 
ernment of these Spanish islands." 

Root was naturally impatient with the pettifoggery, the paper 
shuffling, the military vanities and foibles he found among his new 
associates. Captain Pershing intrigued him immediately, not only be- 
cause a soldier with a law degree was such a rarity but for his plain 
speaking and his contempt for bureaucratic quibbles. Root found that 
Pershing was the rare officer who could carry out a directive without 
delay or confusion, who was willing to make decisions and assume 
responsibility without buck passing. Together they confronted the 
problem of the corruption and scandal in the military government of 
Havana and worked on plans for the pacification of the Philippines, 
where native guerrillas, having expected total liberation once the 
Spanish were driven out, now were organizing an insurrection against 
the American occupation. 

Chair-borne duty, however, proved irksome after eight months as 
chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs, no matter how rewarding was 


his association with Elihu Root. He requested a transfer to active duty 
in the Philippines, which was granted. 

Late in 1899 he sailed for Manila the long way around, via Eng- 
land, the Suez Canal, the Indian Ocean, and the Straits of Malacca. 
During a stop-off of several weeks in England, he was astounded by 
the business-as-usual atmosphere while a bitterly difficult war was 
being fought against the Boers in South Africa. One of the first places 
he decided to visit was the famous Woolwich Arsenal, which he imag- 
ined would be guarded by at least a regiment armed to the teeth, not 
reckoning with the supreme self-confidence of the British. At the 
arsenal he strolled through an open and unguarded gateway and soon 
was looking over "large quantities of military stores" which any Boer 
agent or saboteur seemingly would have been able to destroy with a 
minimum of effort. 

A guard finally sauntered up and asked him his business. Per- 
shing playfully admitted he had no business there and was evasive in 
his replies to the guard's questions. "Well," the guard finally remon- 
strated, "of course you know it's against the rules." Pershing then 
identified himself as an American officer in mufti, and the guard po- 
litely showed him all around the arsenal. 

He arrived in Manila aboard the hospital ship Missouri, then took 
a coastal steamer for Zamboanga, on the island of Mindanao. There, 
in the rebellious southern islands, his future lay. For the best part of 
the next fourteen years, campaigning against the toughest jungle fight- 
ers in the world, he would be tried, trained, and hardened in the harsh 
school of the colonial soldier. 

3. Against the Gong-Maddened Moros 

Damn, damn, damn the Filipino, 
Pockmarked kodiac ladrone; 
Underneath the starry flag 
Civilize him with a Krag 
And return us to our beloved home. 

American soldiers' song to the 
tune of "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp" 

No longer, deadlier, or stranger war was ever fought by the American 
Army, in proportion to the numbers involved, than the intermittent 
jungle campaigns between 1900 and 1914 against the Moros of the 
southern Philippines. It attracted comparatively little attention in the 
United States except when fighting would break out around the Moro 
forts in the mountain jungles and stateside humanitarians would pro- 
test the "massacre" of native dissidents by American troops indoc- 
trinated with the "civilize 'em with a Krag" 1 philosophy. Though the 
Moro campaigns are one of the least-known phases of United States 
military history, they served as the proving ground for many of the 
leading commanders in World War I, not the least of them John J. 

Captain Pershing arrived in the Philippines just as he turned forty 
a trim, energetic, and inobtrusively ambitious officer who had left 
important friends in Washington and brought with him impressive 

x That is, with a Krag-Jorgensen rifle, then the standard issue for the 
Regular Army. 


credentials of service both in staff and line. His first assignment, de- 
spite his eagerness to serve in a troop command, was adjutant general 
of the Department of Mindanao and Jolo, with headquarters at 
Zamboanga, the recently vacated seat of Spanish military power in 
the southern islands. The department, known as the Moro Province 
under civil administration, embraced the islands of Mindanao, Ba- 
silan, Jolo, Tawitawi, and many smaller nameless ones in the palm- 
shaded and coral-shored chain which marked the dividing line 
between the Sulu and Celebes seas. On August 20, 1901, he was trans- 
ferred to the 15th Cavalry, again as a staff officer, this time wearing 
the hats of chief engineer, ordnance and signal officer, and collector 
of customs at Zamboanga. On October 1 1 of that year, finally, he 
broke away from desk duty and was given command of the post at 
Iligan, on the north coast of Mindanao. 

During the irksome months of staff duty he busied himself learning 
everything he could about the Moros and their customs, applying him- 
self with the same diligence as he had more than a dozen years earlier 
in Apache country. He learned to speak the Moro dialects and to 
read Arabic, studied the rambling texts of the Koran, and mingled 
on friendly terms with the tamer Moros living in the coastal towns. 
Almost from the outset he saw that if the occupying forces several 
thousand troops against more than a half million natives in the Moro 
Province tried to suppress certain native proclivities there would be 
more trouble than a few regiments could handle. Piracy, slavery, and 
polygamy were part of the Moro's life; slaughtering the Christians or 
any other brand of infidel was not murder but a passport to the Mo- 
hammedan heaven. Barbaric as his customs seemed to the white man, 
the Moro had established his own kind of civilization in the southern 
seas dating back six centuries, and it would take more than gunfire, 
sermonizing, and the lure of indoor plumbing to persuade him to 
change his ways if it could ever be done. The best the Americans 
could hope for was to establish a minimum amount of order and to 
introduce a more democratic system of law. 

Early in his stay in the Philippines, Pershing wrote a rather percep- 
tive description of the Moro character and its resistance to change. 
"The almost infinite combination of superstitions, prejudices and sus- 
picions blended with his character make him a difficult person to han- 
dle until fully understood. In order to control him other than by brute 
force, one must first win his implicit confidence, nor is this as difficult 


as it would seem. ... He is jealous of his religion, but he knows 
very little about its teachings. ... As long as he is undisturbed in 
the possession of his women and children, and his slaves, there is little 
to fear from him. As a rule he treats his so-called slaves, who are really 
but serfs or vassals, as members of his family; but any interference 
with what he thinks his right regarding them had best be made grad- 
ually by the natural process of development, which must logically come 
by contact with and under the wise supervision of a civilized people." 

Pershing and other army officers experienced in dealing with native 
peoples knew that pacification of the Philippines, no matter what peo- 
ple were told back home, would be a long, costly, and patience- 
demanding project. Since the Spanish fleet had been destroyed and 
Manila occupied in the summer of 1898, Luzon and the other islands 
to the north were slowly being brought under control. Emilio Agui- 
naldo, the leader of the insurrection on Luzon, was not captured until 
March 23, 1901. On Samar, a particularly vigorous guerrilla leader 
named Lucban wiped out almost an entire company of U.S. infantry 
in a surprise attack. Throughout the islands the American troops con- 
trolled little more than their posts and garrison towns and their lines 
of communication; they were surrounded by guerrillas and a popu- 
lation almost entirely sympathetic to them. The Filipinos had decided 
to resist the decision to replace Spanish rule with a somewhat gentler 
but not much less irksome American administration. 

In a period of little more than three years the American Army in 
the Philippines was forced to engage in 2811 separate battles and 
actions. The insurrection slowly flickered out first on Luzon and the 
northern islands, as civil administrators, doctors, teachers, sanitation 
and nutrition experts came out from the States by the thousands. A 
policy of patient instruction seemed to work best. On Samar, for in- 
stance, General Jacob "Hell Roaring" Smith decided to take revenge 
for the massacre of the infantry company at Balangiga and ordered his 
subordinates, "I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn; the 
more you kill and burn the better you will please me." He suggested 
that Samar be made "a howling wilderness" and rounded up thou- 
sands of the people in concentration camps. The result was a long 
drawn-out struggle finally resolved by gentler measures. 

The Moro country, being largely Mohammedan while the other is- 
lands had been converted by the Spanish friars to the Catholic faith, 
was a different and more difficult problem. The Moros, like the Taga- 


logs, Visayans, and other Filipino peoples, were of Malay stock. Mo- 
hammedanism, giving them a fighting creed, made the difference. It 
was imported to the southern Philippines in the latter part of the 
fourteenth century by adventurers from the Javanese Empire of Ma- 
japahit. In 1490, thirty years before Magellan "discovered" the Phil- 
ippines, Mindanao and the Sulu Islands were ruled by Arab-Malay 
nobles from the royal houses of Borneo and Malacca. 

When the Spanish came, they were able to subjugate Luzon and the 
northern islands after a long and continuing struggle, but in the south 
they were confined to Zamboanga, a few other strongly fortified posts, 
and a garrison on the mountain-girded Lake Lanao. Even for those 
places they had to fight continuously, since Mohammedan mission- 
aries kept the Moro tribes in a constant ferment of resistance. In the 
Sulu and Celebes seas, meanwhile, the Moro pirates in their swift 
vintas reaped a rich harvest of booty for centuries; the island of Jolo 
served as their thieves' market, at which the men they captured were 
sold into slavery and the women were parceled out to various Moro 

In their attempt to gain control over the Moro Province without 
open hostilities, the Americans negotiated a very tentative agreement 
with the Sultan of Sulu and some lesser dignitaries, called the Bates 
Treaty, in which the sultanate was defined as a "protected sovereignty" 
under the benign guidance of the United States. The sultan was to 
receive $250 a month and seven tribal leaders lesser amounts from 
the United States. This agreement, however, covered only about a 
third of the Moros and did not include the island of Mindanao. 

The real ruler of the Moros, as the Americans learned, was not the 
Sultan of Sulu at his stronghold on the island of Jolo, but the tribal 
chiefs (the datus and panglimas) and the Mohammedan priests 
(panditas) who governed their people under a feudal system which 
gave them the power of life and death over their subjects. When the 
Americans began occupying the coastal towns of Mindanao and other 
islands, the less amiable Moros started moving inland, leaving the 
coast to the minority groups of Christian Filipinos and a scattering 
of pagan tribes who had suffered for centuries from their depredations. 

Fiercely independent, warlike on land or sea, the bulk of the Moros 
were determined to live their own way criminal, violent, and barbaric 
as it seemed to the Spanish and the Americans, who hoped to instill in 
them Occidental law and Christian ethic and resist any attempts to 


impose changes. Their code of laws included the following provisions: 

"If a bachelor or widower commits adultery and is killed by a non- 
Mohammedan, the non-Mohammedan shall be put to death. But a 
Mohammedan who may kill such an adulterer shall not be put to 

"If a creditor begets a child of a slave held as security he shall buy 
the child from the debtor; otherwise the child shall become the slave 
of the debtor. 

"If a married man commits adultery with a free woman, both shall 
be stoned to death. The punishment of the man may be reduced to 
imprisonment. The woman shall be buried up to the chest and stoned 
with medium-sized stones. 

"The minimum amount of blood money for a deep stab wound of 
a Moslem shall be 86854 pesos; of a heathen or pagan 57 54 pesos. 

"If a free man kills a slave, the free man shall not be put to death. 
If a slave or other servant kills a free man, he shall be put to death." 

Slavery was a sacred institution to the Moros, condoned and en- 
couraged in the Koran; piracy was a greatly respected profession; 
thievery and murder, if directed against non-Mohammedans, were 
praiseworthy, and polygamy was a decent and moral method of insur- 
ing the care and protection of women, always hi surplus due to the 
violent and risky careers of their menfolk. The Americans managed to 
abolish slavery and break up the slave markets in the relatively small 
areas under their direct control, but there was no abolition in the 
mountain jungles, where the tribal chiefs were beyond the application 
of force. 

From their mountain strongholds, the Moros were soon sallying 
forth and raiding the coastal towns, carrying off cattle and human 

Brigadier General William A. Kobbe, then commanding the De- 
partment of Mindanao and Jolo, decided that a punitive expedition up 
the Cagayan River on the north coast of Mindanao would be neces- 
sary to show that the Americans meant business. A General Capi- 
strano was reported to be leading the Macajambos of the Cagayan 
district hi their raids. The column of infantry and cavalry, with a few 
mountain guns hauled on pack mules, was to capture Capistrano, 
scatter his warriors, and seize his fort on the lip of a mountain gorge. 

Since this was the first column to invade the interior, General Kobbe 
wanted exact and detailed reports on its progress and achievements. 


He detailed Captain Pershing, as his adjutant, to accompany the ex- 
pedition and supply him with those reports. 

The expedition took the field on November 27, 1900, moving 
slowly and laboriously up the Cagayan, cutting a road through the 
ascending jungle, moving over plains of shoulder-high cogon grass and 
fields of giant ferns. As they climbed into the foothills, the Americans 
became aware of the fact that they were being watched every foot of 
the way and that it would be easy enough for the Moros to ambush 
them with their blowguns and poisoned darts. The Moros, however, 
held off their attack, possibly out of curiosity at the sight of these 
white men toiling so ridiculously at traversing country over which they 
moved with the ease and swiftness of the animals. The spectacle must 
have become even more hilarious to the watching Moros as the moun- 
tain howitzers had to be unloaded from muleback and hauled by hand 
over the steep and treacherous mountain trails. 

When the American column approached the 800-foot gorge in 
which their fort was located, the Macajambos finally launched their 
attack. Some of General Capistrano's followers were concealed in the 
brush at the bottom of the canyon when the American cavalrymen 
watered their horses on the afternoon of December 17 and began firing 
from ambush. The cavalrymen took cover while the infantry went to 
work. Captain Pershing, although detailed to go with the column as an 
observer, immediately took a hand in the fire fight. "Pershing took 
fifteen men on one bluff and I took about the same number on another 
and poured volleys into the canyon, firing at smoke from the insurgent 
pieces, silencing their fire," reported Captain James J. Mays of the 
40th Infantry. "I think we killed some of them but do not know." 

Next day, while patrols from the 40th Infantry guarded the ap- 
proaches to the fortified village of Macajambos, Pershing crossed the 
river and joined the mountain howitzer battery commanded by Cap- 
tain Millar, helping to direct its fire on General Capistrano's strong- 
hold. Terrified by the bombardment, the Moros fled into the jungle 
and managed to escape Captain Mays's patrols. By the afternoon of 
December 18, it was obvious that the Macajambos had given up the 
fight and scattered into the mountains. And that was probably the 
easiest victory ever won by an American field force against the Moro 
tribes of Mindanao. Later they would hold to their forts with a bitter 
courage matched in the American experience only by the Sioux and 
the Apaches. 


The Cagayan expedition wrecked the Macajambos's stronghold and 
destroyed provisions and ammunition found in the fort, as well as two 
of the brass cannon known as lantacas. On December 28, near the 
village of Langaran, a number of insurgents were found to have ven- 
tured hi from the jungles and occupied a strong position, but just as 
the Americans deployed to assault it the Moros fled once again. 

On February 2, 1901, Captain Pershing wrote General Kobbe that 
Capistrano, his followers dispersed and disheartened, wanted to come 
in for a conference with the department commander at Zamboanga 
and advised that "patrols and expeditionary forces need not be sus- 
pended but should be warned to be at special pains not to molest 
unresisting parties of natives." Capistrano's surrender was followed 
by the capitulation of a number of his followers. 

The suppression of the Macajambos failed to deter other Moro 
tribes, particularly to the south of Lake Lanao, from contesting the 
American authority. American soldiers and civilians were murdered 
and a number of cavalry horses were stolen by the Malanaos, a group 
of tribes living in the mountains above and on the shore around the 
lake. After much conferring in Manila and Zamboanga, it was de- 
cided to teach the Malanaos a stern lesson, which would take the shape 
of a large punitive force, a thousand cavalry and infantry troops, to 
be commanded by Colonel Frank D. Baldwin, who had twice won 
the Medal of Honor in the Civil and Indian Wars. There were two 
approaches to the lake district, from Iligan on the north coast, roughly 
the route taken by the Cagayan River expedition, or up from Mala- 
bang on the south coast. Neither was easy, since the lake was 2500 
feet above sea level and the intervening country was a tangle of jungle, 
mountain, and cogon-covered plateau. 

While Baldwin's column moved up from Malabang, Captain Per- 
shing was placed in command of the post at Iligan. He had made a 
number of friends among the Moros of northern Mindanao and was 
expected to play a semi-diplomatic role. Holding court at Iligan, he 
encouraged the chiefs of neighboring tribes to come in and talk to 
him. He explained to each of them that Baldwin's operations were 
aimed at the Sultan of Bayan and his supporters, not against Moros 
of the north who were presently keeping the peace. 

Pershing's efforts doubtless persuaded many Moros to stay out of 
the Sultan of Bayan's camp and lessened the dangers of Colonel Bald- 


win's venture, since there were close to 300,000 2 Moros living in the 
lake country (according to a Spanish estimate). In due course, Colo- 
nel Baldwin assaulted the Sultan of Bayan's stronghold at Pandatahan 
and carried the place after a hard fight. An estimated 200 to 300 
Moros were killed, including the sultans of Bayan and Pandatahan. 
With evident disapproval, Pershing later commented on this opera- 
tion, "I think Colonel Baldwin wanted to shoot the Moros first and 
give them the olive branch afterwards." 

An American garrison was established a thousand yards south of 
the captured fort and preparations were made to bring the whole lake 
country under control. Pershing was summoned to Camp Vicars in the 
spring of 1902 to act as Baldwin's intelligence officer and acquaint him- 
self with the command. His superiors had decided on larger responsi- 
bilities for Pershing, since General Kobbe was soon to be replaced 
by Brigadier General George W. Davis and Baldwin was to be pro- 
moted to brigadier and sent elsewhere. 

There were plenty of senior officers waiting around Manila and 
Zamboanga to assume the command at Camp Vicars, which ordinar- 
ily would have gone to a full colonel certainly not a junior captain. 
But his superiors had settled on Pershing for the post, and he had 
enough highly placed friends in Washington, up to and including 
President Roosevelt, to override the rigid system of seniority obtaining 
at the time. General Davis wrote the War Department that the assign- 
ment of Pershing to command at Camp Vicars was necessary because 
"the man to command on the spot should possess certain qualities not 
easy to find confined in one man: capacity for command, physical 
and mental vigor, infinite patience in dealing with these fanatical semi- 
savages, wise discretion, a serious desire to accomplish work set for 
him, and knowledge of the Moro character." 

Captain Pershing's appointment to command Camp Vicars and 
whatever punitive forces would be sent from there was announced 
on June 30, 1902. A groan of protest went up from the Army in the 
Philippines, particularly from officers above the grade of captain, as 
always when sacrosanct seniority was flouted. The appointment was 
attributed to "pull," and the fact that Pershing had studiously pre- 
pared himself for greater responsibility by learning the Moro dialects 

2 A short time later, however, Pershing estimated the Moro population 
around the lake at 80,000. 


and acquainting himself with the people while most of his fellow offi- 
cers were lolling at their ease in cantonments by the Sulu Sea, accepting 
drinks from native servants bearing brass trays, was disregarded. From 
then on, a certain amount of professional jealousy evidenced itself dur- 
ing every succeeding phase of Pershing's career, a spiteful quality no 
less virulent among the military than operatic tenors; he was to be a 
marked man in more ways than one, and the envy generated by the 
Camp Vicars appointment was to burst out several years later in a 
particularly nasty form. 

The Manila Times took notice of the dissatisfaction in army circles 
and remarked that the appointment was "very freely discussed in the 
service, and the men who rank him have been greatly displeased. He 
is only a captain and the size of his force is out of all proportion to 
his rank." The Times reported that Pershing was the choice of Major 
General Adna R. Chaffee, commanding in Manila, and General Da- 
vis, at Zamboanga, "has not hesitated to continue him in the place." 
The Manila American approved of Pershing as an officer "equipped 
by nature with a vast amount of patience and a deep insight into hu- 
man character." 

Jack Pershing also had his supporters, few though they may have 
been, among his fellow officers. Captain Robert Lee Bullard, who 
had been in the class ahead of Pershing's at West Point and who was 
then also serving on Mindanao, remarked that Pershing deserved the 
post because he was "very influential" with the Moros and had won 
their "confidence and admiration." Bullard also took note of the "ad- 
verse criticism of men who were jealous or who disapproved of his 
thus occupying himself." Bullard believed that "the Americans had 
inherited the idea that they [the Moros] were irreconcilable, and im- 
possible of civilization. Pershing's influence began to lead them toward 
the American authorities." 

Bullard also noted in his diary that Pershing "was given this duty 
when there were on the spot other officers many years his senior in age 
and service. This was accomplished, of course, by a species of military 
jugglery, but it was amply justified by the conditions. Ill-judged treat- 
ment of friendly Moros by an officer of mine had nearly precipitated a 
general war with the Moros." As Pershing firmly took hold of the 
troubled situation around Lake Lanao, Bullard wrote that "the more 
I see of this unusual work the more I am of the opinion that General 
Davis did right to keep Pershing in charge of these Moros instead of 


placing in charge some fool officer who ignorantly supposed that he 
could come and in an offhand manner manage these savages." 

Pershing's "unusual work" at Camp Vicars undoubtedly startled his 
more hidebound fellow officers, who viewed the Moros simply as bar- 
barians to be ignored if they were peaceable or struck down if they 
got out of hand. Most of the regulars believed they should be ruled 
at least as firmly, as haughtily, as the British reigned over the teeming 
masses of India; you had to keep them at a distance, convince them of 
the white man's superiority, draw an unwavering line between the sa- 
hib and the native. 

Pershing, however, proceeded to deal with the Moros if not quite as 
equals, at least as fellow human beings. He spent hours every day 
receiving their delegations a datu under a silken sunshade accom- 
panied by a number of retainers endlessly explaining to them the 
purposes of the American occupation and pointing out that if they 
were willing to till their lands peacefully they could make the island 
one of the most bountiful in the world. 

He also contrived to mingle with them on social terms, then and 
later in his Philippine career, with an ease and lack of condescension 
rarely attained by other American officers or civilian governors of that 
period. One of the Moro enthusiasms was for playing chess, which 
had been taught them by the Arab missionaries. Pershing would squat 
on the ground for hours studying a chessboard with visiting datus. 
He also invited 700 of his Moro neighbors to attend a Fourth of July 
celebration at Camp Vicars in the summer of 1902, encouraging his 
men to mingle with the guests and show them a common humanity. 

In the vigorously colonizing world of 1902, laboring under Kip- 
lingesque delusions of white supremacy, this sort of person-to-person 
socializing was a radical and possibly dangerous departure from the 
proper way of doing things. 

Despite all his diplomacy and hospitality, a number of sultans in 
the lake region refused to come in and parley with Pershing. The 
sultans of Maciu, of Bacolod, of Bayabao, and of Calabui, and the 
lesser datus and panglimas who sympathized with them, now saw quite 
clearly that their authority over the tribes would be sharply reduced if 
they submitted to the Sultan of Camp Vicars. They had no intention of 
sharing their ancient powers with an American officer. It was time to 
discourage his attempts to pacify the lake country. 

He was not easily dissuaded that peaceful methods would work and 


even used what must have seemed like white witchcraft to impress 
the natives. A number of Moro chiefs, on the verge of warring among 
themselves, were summoned to a peace conference but balked at 
signing a treaty. Pershing ordered his aides to bring in an Edison "talk- 
ing machine," which had just been developed and put on the market 
back in the States. Helen Gould, the daughter of financier Jay Gould, 
had purchased ten of the machines and presented them to the Army 
for recreational purposes. One of these had been sent to the Philip- 
pines and was passed along, by coastal steamer and pack train, to 
Camp Vicars. 

Pershing played a musical selection, which only bored the Moros, 
who regarded tjieir own gong, cymbal, and bamboo flute music as 
superior. Then he put a cylinder titled "A Day at the Farm" on the 
machine. The sounds of an American barnyard delighted his guests, 
but they still refused to sign the treaty. 

Pershing nodded to another officer, and a moment later two order- 
lies appeared. One carried a dead pig, the other a bucket of pig's blood. 
More than anything else, the Moros feared contamination by a pig, 
which would bar them from the Mohammedan heaven. Pershing 
scooped up a dipper of the blood, enough to spatter the whole assem- 
blage, then pointed to the treaty. There was no further argument from 
the chiefs. One by one they stepped forward and agreed to the treaty. 

These various techniques, friendly and forcible, proved their value 
in the hard campaigning ahead. Pershing had only 700 men under his 
command and could have been wiped out in the coming year of march- 
ing and fighting if the thousands of Malanaos in the lake districts de- 
cided to rise up against him. 

Almost every day, as the summer of 1902 waned, it became appar- 
ent that the dissident tribes could not be kept under control without 
more vigorous measures. As a warrior people, they respected only 
those who would make war on them. "The inactivity of the command," 
Pershing noted, "was misconstrued" by the rebellious sultans who 
"evidently expected the American forces to follow up the battle of 
Pandatahan with further assaults upon their cottas" and were em- 
boldened by Pershing's peacemaking gestures. At night Camp Vicars 
was virtually under siege. "We were subjected almost nightly to snip- 
ing from a distance, sometimes accompanied by the beating of torn 
toms, yells of defiance and lusty laughter at our expense. There was 
not a tent in the camp that had no bullet holes." The Moro attacks 


grew bolder. Rifles were stolen, the telegraph line to Malabang was 
cut and a mile of wire carried off, and soldiers coming up the trail 
from that southern base were attacked. 

Admiral Robley D. Evans, the naval hero, came up from Malabang 
to visit Pershing's headquarters and sat up all night with a rule in his 
lap while Moro snipers banged away at the trail camp. He was hardly 
comforted by the words of a sergeant attached to his escort, "Don't 
mind them, sir. The Moros shoot at the tents at night, but they don't 
hit you." 

It was all but impossible to keep the Moros from infiltrating the 
perimeter, particularly on a dark and rainy night, because "in stealth 
of movement these warriors were more crafty than even American 
Indians." Pershing told how one of his sentries "saw in a flash of light- 
ning a figure approaching the line of headquarters tents in a crouching 
position, and in the next flash he fired. The following morning the 
Moro was found dead with his heavy kris strapped to his wrist." The 
night of August 1 1 an American outpost was attacked, two men were 
killed and two others wounded. 

Pershing repeatedly warned his officers to go directly from the camp 
to the outposts and back on their nightly rounds. A lieutenant who 
disobeyed this order was shot through the sleeve by a corporal who 
fired at the officer's silhouette on the skyline. 

Pershing sent for the corporal, who was "pale with anxiety" over 
having shot at an officer, and congratulated him on "the way you car- 
ried out your orders. If the lieutenant had been killed, it would have 
been his own fault." 

He decided that the time had come for punitive action and reported 
to his superiors that "further forbearance might lead friendly Moros 
also to misjudge our tolerance and take up arms." In mid-September 
he was given permission to undertake the first of his campaigns in the 
lake country. Before the campaigning started, however, he assured the 
peaceful Moros that the military operations were aimed only at the re- 
bellious sultans and datus who "must some day suffer the conse- 
quences of their stubborn ignorance." 

His command consisted of five troops of the 15th Cavalry, a bat- 
talion of the 27th Infantry, a battery of artillery, and a company of 
engineers (used largely for cutting roads). On September 28 he set 
out at the head of his column, heading for the stronghold of the Sultan 
of Maciu, one of the most intransigent of those bent on rebellion. The 


sultan had reason for confidence, holding a strong position on the 
southern shore of Lake Lanao. Several hundred of the Maciu tribe, 
including women and children, who always entered the cottas (forts) 
of their men and fought at their side, were holed up on a small penin- 
sula jutting into the lake. To reach it, Pershing would have to cross an 
all but impenetrable swamp or haul boats through the jungle and at- 
tack from the water that enclosed the fort on three sides. Pershing de- 
cided on the former alternative. 

His engineers cut down the huge hardwood trees of the jungle and 
corduroyed a road through the swamp, a job that took almost two 
weeks to accomplish. 

Then he pushed his assault lines forward, placing them within a few 
hundred yards of the steep slopes of the cotta and bringing up his 
battery of mountain guns. The fort itself would be a hard nut to crack. 
It was surrounded by a moat and had walls ten feet thick. Inside were 
fighting-mad Moros armed with rifles, wavy-bladed krises, cleaverlike 
barongs, heavy campilans (swords that had to be swung with both 
hands and could lop a man's head off with one blow), bolos, and 
brass cannons. 

Pershing demanded the fort's surrender, but the Sultan of Maciu 
responded by unfurling his red battle flags. 

Calmly confident, according to a correspondent for the Manila 
Times who had accompanied the punitive force, Pershing prepared to 
accept the challenge. He had already decided on the tactics necessary 
for storming a Moro fort with a minimum of casualties: his troops 
would invest the place, then the howitzers would plaster it with shrap- 
nel, and after that would come the direct assault. 

On the afternoon of October 11, Pershing ordered the bombard- 
ment to begin. The Manila Times correspondent told of interviewing 
Captain Pershing "as we sat together on a rice dyke a hundred yards 
from the Sultan of Maciu's formidable stronghold" while the shells 
arched overhead. 

"Will you storm the fort tonight?" the correspondent asked. 

"No, we would lose too many men," Pershing replied. 

"But aren't you afraid they'll sneak out in the tall grass during the 
night and get away?" 

"That's just what I expect them to do," Pershing said with a "quiz- 
zical grin," then explained to the newspaperman, "We'll draw our lines 
a little closer and when they come out we'll be ready for them." 


Assaulting a Moro fort was a hellishly noisy affair. To whip up 
their courage, the Moros raised an immense clangor with their war 
gongs, the reverberations almost drowning out the other sounds of 
battle. "Inside the fort," wrote the Manila Times reporter, "the screams 
of wounded men, the exhortations of the panditti, or Mohammedan 
priests, and the defiant cries of the warriors mingled with the roar of 
cannon and the dull reports of muzzle-loading rifles made a din hor- 
rid to the ear." 

As evening fell and the bombardment ended, Pershing tightened his 
lines around the fort. F and M Companies, 27th Infantry, to the east, 
G Company to the west, and C Company to the south, the latter backed 
up by the battery of mountain guns now loaded with canister for point- 
blank fire. He warned each of his company commanders to be ready 
for a wild night attack on their lines. 

Shortly before midnight the Moros proved that he had guessed their 
intentions exactly. "Gong-maddened," as the Manila newspaperman 
wrote, the Moros came rushing down from their cotta, firing their old 
muzzle-loaders and swinging their swords. The American infantry was 
waiting to mow them down. They fired by the volley, perfectly dis- 
ciplined, as the shrieking, gong-clanging horde swept down on them. 
The gunners blasted scrap metal at them from close range, firing over 
the sights of their pack howitzers. Wildly as they fought to escape, the 
Moros couldn't make a dent in the American lines. In less than half 
an hour, they called off their attack and crept back into their battered 
fort, leaving twenty dead hi the bloody grass but hauling away their 

Next morning not a sound came from the splintered bamboo pali- 
sades of the cotta. With a few exceptions, the Moros of Maciu had 
managed to escape during the night to the north of the fort, the water 
side, by wading chin-deep along the shore until they were clear of the 
American lines. 

The exceptions were several white-robed men, who came screaming 
out of the fort, waving their barongs and trying to cut down the nearest 
American soldiers. They were shot down before they could harm 
any of the Americans. These men, according to an old Mohammedan 
custom, had gone juramentado, had run amuck after promising their 
priests to kill as many white men as they could before they died. A 
juramentado would shave his head and eyebrows, bind his waist, ask 
the priest for his blessing, and then sally forth on an errand of sane- 


tified murder; in return for killing all the infidels in reach he was prom- 
ised swift transportation to the Mohammedan heaven and its black- 
eyed houris. The Moros used juramentado as a weapon of terror, 
which kept the occupying forces, whether Spanish or American, in a 
constant state of dread. Soon soldiers had to go armed everywhere 
and be prepared at any time of day or night to fend off such an at- 
tack, whether in the towns or out in the country. 

Pershing estimated that his provisional force had killed fifty Moros 
and wounded another fifty in the Maciu operation. The Moros, how- 
ever, managed to carry off most of their dead and all of their wounded. 

During the next week, Pershing marched his troops around the 
southern shore of Lake Lanao, occupying various villages and show- 
ing the Moro chiefs that he could be firm, fair-minded, and friendly 
all at once. His troops were kept under the tightest discipline, with 
harsh penalties for any who neglected sanitation in a country where 
tropical diseases were always endemic, and for those who tried to buy, 
seduce, or force their attentions on the Moro women. Sentries were 
instructed to stand up under all kinds of abuse from the natives with- 
out firing unless they were physically attacked. Any soldiers who got 
out of line quickly learned that "Black Jack" was an admirable 
sobriquet for Pershing. 

The Moros were acquiring a certain respect for Pershing. Being a 
warrior race, they could only admire his conquest of the Maciu penin- 
sula, even though a number of their fellows were killed as a result of it. 
Aside from demonstrating his ability as a fighter, however, Pershing 
convinced the Moros that he did not mean to steal their cattle, trifle 
with their women, or deal too arbitrarily with their customs. The Ma- 
nila Times was particularly enthusiastic over "the Captain's attitude 
towards the customs of the people. He points out that through the 
course of centuries certain of them became rooted in the lives of the 
people and we cannot expect to tear up and destroy them in a day." 
Dealing harshly with the Moro way of life, the Times believed, would 
"reap a legacy of hatred and ill will." 

After his return to Camp Vicars, Captain Pershing settled down to 
another spell of creating good will in the Lake Lanao district. A 
cholera epidemic broke out among the natives and 1500 of them died 
in the space of a few weeks. Pershing sent medicines and instructions 
for their use to the rancherias where the cholera was particularly viru- 
lent. Almost at the same time, the new Sultan of Bayan, undismayed 


by his predecessor's defeat and death only a year before at Pandatahan, 
was making warlike gestures from his new cotta crowning an almost 
inaccessible slope. Pershing let it be known that he was preparing an 
expedition against him, and a few days later Pandita Sjiducimen, the 
high priest of Bayan, came down the mountainside to negotiate on 
behalf of the sultan. 

Then the sultan himself, accompanied by retainers in tight red pants 
with gold buttons down the side, appeared at Camp Vicars to talk 
peace and "see the stronghold of the white chief." Pershing, to the 
sultan's dismay, announced that he would "return your compliment 
by visiting you." Disenchanted as he was by the thought of American 
soldiers being allowed to invade his sanctuary, the sultan was too polite 
to forbid Pershing's visit. 

Accompanied by an escort of infantry and a battery of artillery, 
Pershing smilingly presented himself at the Sultan of Bayan's craggy 
headquarters. Since there was no gate in the fort, he and his compan- 
ions had to climb over the walls on ladders. Once there, he raised 
the United States flag over the fort and fired a twenty-one gun salute. 
The Moros were especially impressed with the booming artillery, as 
Pershing had intended. The sultan, no less impressed, asked Pershing 
to become the adopted father of his wife. Pershing also adopted four 
children of the tribe, one of whom he described as "a bright, clean 
little fellow who has the airs of a Prince of Wales." 

Before the visit ended, the sultan and his court decided that an un- 
precedented honor should be conferred upon Pershing. He was to be 
consecrated a datu "by the law and rites of the Koran," making him 
a tribal chieftain, blood relative, and counselor of the Moros of Bayan. 
Never before and never again would a Christian be made a Moslem 
prince. With a grave, Moro-like dignity, he submitted himself to the 
consecration ceremony, possibly wondering what his old Sunday- 
school teacher in Laclede would have thought of him in that heathen 

Pershing, as one of his officers observed, "unflinchingly returned the 
embrace and kiss on each cheek of the Datu Sadji," even though the 
datu "had a thick black beard and chewed betel nut . . . and some 
of the juice thereof had trickled into his beard." There were no comic 
overtones, however, in Pershing's own account of the Moslem cere- 

"Each sultan and datu, with his prominent followers in his rear, sat 


on his heels, the whole forming a circle. The sacred Koran was placed 
on a mat of native fiber in the center of this circle, guarded by an 
aged Mohammedan priest, gorgeous in trousers of all colors and a yel- 
low silk upper garment, over whose head a slave held a beautiful 
silk sunshade. Silver boxes, beautifully engraved, containing betel nut 
were passed around the circle and then the speechmaking began, each 
chief in turn giving his opinion. ... At the conclusion, all the rulers 
and myself, placing our hands upon the Koran, registered a vow of 
eternal friendship, allegiance to the United States, and agreed upon a 
cessation of warfare against each other." 

On his return to Camp Vicars, Pershing was so exhilarated by his 
bloodless victory at Bayan, and more especially by his new rank of 
datu, that he wrote of his many Moro friendships, "If I should say: 
'Go and kill this man or that,' the next day they would appear in camp 
with his head." From the Manila Times he clipped an editorial prais- 
ing him for "having won the submission of Bayan through diplomacy" 
and having acquired a "distinction never before enjoyed by an Ameri- 

In the more remote western parts of the lake region, however, the 
Moros were as yet unimpressed by either the diplomatic or military 
powers of Datu Pershing. Slaving, raiding, and cattle stealing were be- 
ing pursued without hindrance. Pershing decided that a vigorous cam- 
paign would be necessary in the spring of 1903, and headquarters at 
Zamboanga, where Brigadier General S. S. Sumner was about to 
succeed General Davis, concurred in his plan. 

Pershing was confident that he could cope with whatever forces the 
Moros of the western lake district might muster against him. "The 
Moros were like Indians and other disunited peoples," as he later 
wrote, in considering the success of his expeditions and the factors 
which enabled them to defeat the warring tribes one by one. "Each 
group was vain of its own fighting ability and boastful of its bravery." 
The Moros had neither the weapons nor the tactics to defend them- 
selves against American fire power, particularly the Maxim machine 
guns and the howitzers packed on muleback. "With our superior arms 
we could hold or force almost any number of Moros beyond the range 
of their weapons." 

He proposed to march and fight his way all around Lake Lanao, 
which had never been attempted before. 

With 600 warriors ranged in cottas on the mountains overlooking 


the western shore, the Sultan of Bacolod was in a particularly defiant 
mood. The Spanish had tried many times to break into his strong- 
hold but always failed. At the approach of the American column the 
sultan gathered all his followers from the smaller cottas and prepared 
to defend the fort of Bacolod, which was surrounded by a moat forty 
feet deep and thirty-five feet wide and presented walls of earth and 
bamboo twenty feet wide. 

Pershing left Camp Vicars with his composite force late in March 
and on April 6 appeared in battle formation before the fort of Baco- 
lod. The sultan was insultingly brief when Pershing demanded a sur- 
render: "Come and get me if you can." 

Inside the fort, taunting them, the Americans could see Moro war- 
riors armored in buffalo horn and brass links, wearing brass helmets 
copied from the Spanish of centuries ago. Many were equipped with 
old muzzle-loaders, others with krises and campilans. They show- 
ered darts and spears on Americans venturing too close to the walls. 

The first problem in breaching the position would be to bridge the 
deep moat. Under heavy fire from the fort, Pershing's engineers cut 
down trees so they would fall across the wide ditch and filled in the 
open spaces with brush and native huts uprooted from their founda- 
tions. Several such bridges were built under a covering fire from their 
own men to enable the attacking infantry and dismounted cavalry to 
engage the defenders on the parapet and hi their trenches. 

Early in the afternoon of April 8 Pershing gave the signal for the 
assault to begin. His troops charged across the bridges, over the moat 
and onto the walls, boosting each other up foot to shoulder or climb- 
ing up ropes attached to grappling irons. On the parapet American 
bayonets parried, clashed, and thrust aside Moro swords. The moun- 
tain guns fired over the heads of the American troops into the center 
of the fort, isolating the defenders on the walls and in the trenches. 

For thirty minutes, with approximately equal numbers on each side, 
the Americans and the Moros fought it out. A bursting shell set fire 
to part of the fort. The American assault line advanced methodically 
through the stronghold, doing the job of killing as professionally and 
mechanically as a McCormick reaper. The Moros rushed at this 
hedgehog of bayonets with a fanatical courage, but in half an hour 
it was all over. The bamboo fort was bursting with flame and explod- 
ing gunpowder. Many of the defenders fled, or fell, under volleys 
from the American riflemen. In the confusion no one was able to 


count the Moro casualties, but as Pershing reported to General Sum- 
ner at Malabang by field telegraph, "Sixty dead bodies were counted 
on one floor of the fort." Three Americans were wounded, none killed. 
Without any undue modesty he also reported to General Sumner, "As- 
sault carefully planned and perfectly executed. . . . Fort could have 
been taken in no other way. . . . Troops hi good condition. Am pre- 
paring to push on this morning. Anticipate opposition at Calani." 

The Manila American, which favored a conciliatory approach, 
headlined its account of the battle, BACOLOD MOROS SLAUGHTERED 
WITH KRAGS, but conceded that "the Bacolodians provoked the fight 
for they had their battleflags flying defiantly and when the American 
column approached they opened on it with a volley that dropped two 
of Pershing's men." 

Pershing's column continued its march around the lake, slashing its 
way through jungle thickets and vast swamps that had to be bridged 
in places. Cholera struck the command soon after it left Bacolod, and 
seven men died along the way. At Calani the expected opposition did 
not materialize, and Pershing telegraphed the base at Malabang, 
"Moros along route this side Calani turned out in large numbers to 
meet us and escort us through their rancherias. Effect of expedition 
greater than anticipated." Sharp actions had to be fought at the laraca 
River and at Taraca, however, as the column penetrated country in 
which the white man, Spanish or American, was only an unpleasant 

At Taraca, where the Datu Ampuan held sway, the fighting was 
especially bitter. Pershing described it hi an afteraction report tele- 
graphed to headquarters on May 5: "Here stubborn opposition was 
encountered. We attacked the fort of Datu Ampuan which was cov- 
ered with red flags. Firing on part of Moros began from number of 
small cottas to our right and left which were promptly taken and de- 
stroyed. Right flank of two companies of infantry under Grade and 
Shaw was then strung down Taraca River, driving out Moros and 
capturing cotta on north side, killing 115 Moros, wounding thirteen 
and capturing twenty-three prisoners. 

"First fort hi meantime was surrounded and guarded by two troops 
of cavalry (dismounted) all night to prevent Moros' escape. This 
morning at daylight Moros surrendered twenty-nine in number, among 
them Ampuan and a number of datus. Total cannon and lantaka cap- 
tured thirty-six, some very large cannon, and sixty rifles. Our loss was 


one killed and seven wounded. I shall push on from here as soon as 
possible, probably today. Command is in good health, no cholera . . . 
none reported among the Moros." 

Only the Sultan of Anparugano still held out in the lake district, 
and Pershing concluded his whirlwind campaign around the lake by 
invading his rancherias, capturing ten of his hilltop cottas, and dis- 
persing his warriors. 

The completion of the Lake Lanao operations, at a cost of less 
than a score of American lives, including those who died of cholera, 
caught the imagination of the people back home. Editorial writers 
compared his march around Lake Lanao with Jeb Stuart's ride around 
the Union Army. An interview with Henry Savage Landor, the famous 
Tibetan explorer and correspondent for the London Mall, who had 
accompanied Pershing on the campaign and told a Hong Kong news- 
paper that the captain was a "military genius," was picked up and 
published in many American papers. Landor said that "for pluck and 
determination few soldiers in the world can compare with the Ameri- 
can [Pershing]. . . . The manner in which he conducted the Bacolod 
campaign entitled him to a high place among the military commanders 
of the world." 

Praise also was showered down on Pershing from his superiors. On 
May 11, Secretary of War Root cabled General Sumner, "Express to 
Captain Pershing and officers and men under his command the thanks 
of the War Department for their able and effective accomplishment 
of a difficult and important task." General in chief Miles visited Camp 
Vicars on a last inspection tour of the Army before his retirement 
that summer and expressed satisfaction over the way Pershing had 
handled his command. Generals Davis and Sumner, under whom he 
had served, and Generals Arthur Murray and Leonard Wood wrote 
letters to the War Department urging his promotion. Secretary of War 
Root took the rather unusual step of allowing an officer in the War 
Department to release for publication a letter Pershing had written 
him describing the victory at Bacolod and the wild melee on the para- 
pet when his troops stormed the fort: ". . . Here they were met with 
campilan and kris," Pershing wrote rather excitedly, "and a bloody 
hand-to-hand fight occurred one soldier against two Moros here, an- 
other running his bayonet into a fanatic there, Moros plunging head- 
long into the ditch in their impetuosity and impetus. . . ." 

Now that the lake districts were pacified, he was ordered before a 


medical board at Zamboanga, where a Manila Times correspondent 
reported that "long service in Mindanao has told upon the health of 
Captain Pershing." He was permitted to return to Camp Vicars, but 
was soon ordered to duty in Washington. Several years would pass 
before his return to the Moro country. 

On his arrival in the States, he found himself acclaimed a national 
hero by the newspapers. When he stopped in Lincoln to visit his sister 
Bessie (Mrs. D. M. Butler), the cadet battalion at the university, now 
called the Pershing Rifles, turned out in his honor. He also stopped off 
at Chicago, where his parents were living; his mother had just recov- 
ered from an illness so severe that she was not told of his Mindanao 
campaigns until his force returned safely to Camp Vicars. Then he 
continued on his way to Washington, where he was to be one of the 
social lions of the season, a full-fledged celebrity in a society domi- 
nated by the hero-loving President Roosevelt, who was to summon 
him to his office one day solely for the purpose of being introduced to 
the leading prize fighters of a past era, Jake Kilrain and John L. Sulli- 
van, as "our leading military fighter." 

Doubtless he had heard of the statement casually dropped by 
Secretary of War Root at a social function in New York in the pres- 
ence of a former classmate: "If your friend Pershing doesn't watch 
out, he'll find himself in the brigadier-general class very soon." 

4. Promotion and Scandal 

While Pershing was campaigning against the Moros in the rugged in- 
terior of Mindanao, an equally lively if less bloody battle was being 
waged in Washington to modernize the staff and command system 
governing the Army. The Cuban expedition and to a lesser degree the 
Philippine occupation had exposed the moribund condition of the War 
Department as it sputtered, misfired, and labored to function under the 
various bureau chiefs. Secretary of War Root, forward-looking and 
self-assured enough to brave the outcries of those intrenched in the 
outmoded bureaus and their vociferous political supporters, pushed 
through a plan to reorganize the Army under a General Staff. 

Root had been deeply impressed by a document compiled by the 
late Major General Emory Upton (subsequently published under the 
title Military Policy of the United States) which analyzed the defects 
of the United States military establishment and proposed setting up a 
General Staff such as supervised the German operations against France 
in 1871. General William T. Sherman had endorsed the Upton pro- 
posals, commenting that "the time may not be now, but will come when 
these will be appreciated, and may bear fruit even in our day." Root 
seized upon many of General Upton's ideas, including a broader sys- 
tem of military education, which was effected through the establish- 
ment of the Army War College in 1900 and the Command and Gen- 
eral Staff School in 1901; a program under which officers would be 
rotated constantly between staff and line duties to produce a more 
rounded and intellectual soldier; and creating of the office of chief 
of staff, which would more effectively bridge the gap between civilian 
control and military administration. 


Congress passed the General Staff Act shortly before Captain 
Pershing's return to the United States, undeterred by protests that the 
Army was being "Prussianized," that the reorganization was un- 
American, undemocratic, and would lead to a military dictatorship. 

Pershing was assigned to the newly established General Staff first 
under General S. B. M. Young, then under General Adna R. Chaffee, 
under both of whom he had served in Cuba and the Philippines. The 
first General Staff, including three general officers, four colonels, six 
lieutenant colonels, twelve majors, and twenty captains, was the 
cream of the Regular Army, as well as the pet project of President 
Roosevelt and Secretary of War Root. 

President Roosevelt's next objective was the reform of the Army's 
promotion system. At that time the President had the right to pro- 
mote officers of the rank of brigadier or above, but could not touch 
the ranks between lieutenant and colonel; he could elevate a second 
lieutenant to brigadier general, subject to confirmation by the Senate, 
but the most important grades in an officer's career were closed to him. 
In those grades, ironclad seniority, promotion by the numbers, was the 
rule. Many regulars defended this archaic system on the grounds that 
promotion by selection would be subjected to political influence, that 
ambitious officers would be prone to devote more of their time to boot- 
licking than to soldiering, that men of long and faithful service would 
be victimized by juniors with political influence leapfrogging over their 

President Roosevelt called the system the "triumph of mediocrity 
over excellence" in his message to Congress of December 7, 1903, and 
asked for legislation to remedy the situation. He cited Pershing to illus- 
trate his point. 

The President told Congress: "The only people that are contented 
with a system of promotion by seniority are those who are contented 
with the triumph of mediocrity over excellence. On the other hand, a 
system which encouraged the exercise of social or political favoritism 
in promotions would be even worse. But it would surely be easy to 
devise a method of promotion from grade in which the opinion of the 
higher officers of the service upon the candidates should be decisive 
upon the standing and promotion of the latter. . . . 

"Until this system is changed we cannot hope that our officers will 
be of as high grade as we have a right to expect, considering the ma- 
terial upon which we draw. Moreover, when a man renders such serv- 


ice as Captain Pershing rendered last spring in the Moro campaign, it 
ought to be possible to reward him without at once jumping him to the 
grade of brigadier general." 

Congress, however, ignored the President's suggestion. 

With the prospects of promotion stymied for the time being, Pershing 
devoted himself to his professional education as a General Staff officer. 
He attended the Army War College for a time and served briefly as 
General Staff officer with the Southwestern Department at Oklahoma 
City. In-between he pursued a social career with an almost equal vigor. 
From the summer of 1903 to the end of 1904 the society columns of 
the Washington newspapers frequently listed him as a guest at various 
socially important dinner parties, balls, garden parties, and official and 
private receptions. 

During this period of dining out, of being lionized by the Washing- 
ton hostesses, he met the two persons who were to be supremely im- 
portant in his private and emotional life. They were Senator Francis 
E. Warren of Wyoming and his young daughter, Helen Frances 
Warren. Senator Warren, as chairman of the Senate's Military Af- 
fairs Committee, was one of the most influential men in the capital. A 
native of New England, he had served in a Massachusetts regiment 
during the Civil War and migrated to Wyoming in 1868. Pioneering 
in the cattle industry, he made a fortune early in life and turned to 
politics as a full-time vocation. He was the territorial governor of 
Wyoming, then governor of the new state, and finally was sent to the 
United States Senate in 1890. 

Since he was a widower, his daughter, whom everyone called 
"Frankie," presided as his hostess after graduating from Wellesley in 
the class of 1903. The Washington society columnists described her as 
"an exceedingly graceful girl," with a lively sense of humor and mis- 
chief. At Wellesley her classmates recalled that whenever there had 
been an outbreak of girlish mischief the school authorities always 
asked first, "Where was Frances Warren?" Her photographs as a 
graduate show a pleasant-faced young woman, with features a trifle 
too generous for conventional prettiness in a time when the Gibson 
Girl was the shirtwaisted ideal, and strikingly bear out her friends* 
description of her as "gay, warm-hearted, of blithe originality." A 
debutante of that season, she was pursued by more than a fair share 
of the eligible young men of the capital. 

Pershing met the Warrens at a dinner given by Senator Joseph H. 


Millard of Nebraska and his daughter in their suite at the Willard 
Hotel. Millard was a friend of Pershing's dating back to his years on 
the faculty of the University of Nebraska. 

From all accounts it was a case of love at first sight between the 
lighthearted debutante and the middle-aged captain whose hair was 
beginning to turn gray at the temples and whose face was still marked 
by the weariness and illness of almost four years in the Philippines. 
"The fire flew," Senator Warren observed, at that first meeting over 
the Millard dinner table. 

There was a dance at Fort Myer which Miss Warren was to attend 
later that evening, and she asked Pershing if he were going. 

"No," he said, "I have another engagement." 

But the captain apparently had second thoughts about that "other 
engagement." He showed up at the dance at Fort Myer and, with all 
the enthusiasm of a cavalry charge, monopolized Miss Warren's serv- 
ices as a partner on the dance floor. 

At two o'clock that morning Charles E. Magoon, Pershing's lawyer 
friend from Lincoln who was then serving in the government, was 
awakened by a banging on his door. 

Pershing burst in with the proclamation, "Charlie, I've met the girl 
I'm going to marry!" 

As Magoon told the story afterward, Pershing planted himself on 
the edge of his bed, disregarding Magoon's yawns and pleas of sleepi- 
ness, and "jabbered away" for an hour until the lawyer growled at 
his smitten visitor, "Jack, if you're in love, I'm not. I want to get some 
sleep. If you're still in love tomorrow, come around and tell me about 

Next day Miss Warren dropped around to see the wife of Major 
General John R. Brooke and very casually inquired, "Oh, Mrs. 
Brooke, do you happen to know Captain Pershing?" 

The shrewd and sharp-eyed Mrs. Brooke replied, "If you think you 
could stand the life of an army officer's wife, you couldn't do better 
than marry Captain Pershing." 

Pershing was a devoted and insistent suitor, but Miss Warren re- 
fused to commit herself for almost a year. In 1904 a girl didn't accept 
a proposal of marriage, no matter how favorably she looked upon it, 
without an exhausting period of maidenly indecision. A man had to 
expect to be kept "dangling," or he might hold her too cheaply. Ami- 


able as she was, Frances Warren was determined that Jack Pershing 
should serve out his full sentence as a frustrated suitor. 

Late in December of 1904, approximately a year after their first 
meeting, Pershing presented her with what amounted to an ultimatum. 
He had just been posted to Tokyo as military attache and lost no time 
in rushing to her side with the news, pointing out that he might be sta- 
tioned abroad for years. 

"It was now or never," as Miss Warren later told her friends. 

Their engagement was announced on January 10, 1905, with the 
wedding set for sixteen days later because of the groom's immediate 
assignment to his new post. The newspapers made much of the 
"Washington romance of the season," and the Philadelphia North 
American herafded it with a rhyming headline: 


More than 500 guests attended the wedding in the Epiphany Episco- 
pal Church, including President Roosevelt and his family, most of the 
Cabinet, and a large delegation from Congress, the Senate having de- 
layed its convening tune an hour for the occasion. The wedding break- 
fast at the Willard was equally well attended. Thus, at an age when 
most men were seeing their children off to college, Jack Pershing had 
acquired a wife whose background and personality could hardly have 
been more satisfactory for a rising officer. Mrs. Pershing was attrac- 
tive, unassuming, well-poised, trained from childhood to take an im- 
portant place in society, "accustomed to appear at club meetings and 
afternoon teas when she still wore short frocks." And the marriage, 
though buffeted by a scandal concocted by her husband's enemies, 
though their home had to be uprooted a number of times by the exi- 
gencies of the service, and though they had to endure occasional long 
separations while he took to the field, lasted happily for ten years, to 
the day that multiple tragedy struck. It was also fruitful, and the tran- 
sient quality of their home life was well-illustrated by the scattered 
birthplaces of their four children. Helen was born in Tokyo on Septem- 
ber 8, 1906; Anne in Baguio, Luzon, Philippine Islands, March 24, 
1908; Francis Warren in Cheyenne, Wyoming, June 24, 1909; and 
Mary Margaret in Zamboanga, Mindanao, Philippine Islands, on 
May 20, 1912. 

Immediately after the wedding, Captain and Mrs. Pershing left for 


San Francisco, then embarked for Tokyo. "This is the dearest girl in 
the world and I the happiest man in the world," he wrote in his diary. 
The voyage across the Pacific served as their honeymoon, since Per- 
shing had to leave his bride in Tokyo shortly after their arrival. The 
Russo-Japanese War was then in its final phase and Pershing was de- 
tailed to act as one of the American observers in Manchuria. 

On land and sea, czarist Russia, her forces dissipated by monstrously 
incompetent leadership, had been taking a terrible beating. When the 
war started in the mountainous wastes of Manchuria on February 5, 
1904, the rest of the world expected that the island empire of Japan 
would be crushed like a bamboo hut under an avalanche. As the Amer- 
ican war correspondent Frederick Palmer expressed it, "Russia, the 
mammoth world power with her giant soldiers, against the little fel- 
lows who made the pretty lanterns we hung on our lawns for ice-cream 
parties!" The lantern makers, with their Army modeled on the Prussian 
pattern and trained by German officers, had surprised the world by 
turning loose in Manchuria four well-disciplined armies, and their 
Navy had routed the Russians every time they met at sea. The over- 
whelming successes of the Japanese, as Major General J. F. C. Fuller 
(A Military History of the Western World) has written, sounded "a 
reveille throughout the East and Asia began to stir in her ancient 
sleep" a stirring which was to result eventually in the attack on Pearl 
Harbor, the end of colonialism in Asia, and the rise of Communist 
China. Its significance was little understood at the time; even those 
who witnessed it, for the most part, regarded it as interesting only from 
the tactical standpoint. 

Captain Pershing joined the other foreign military observers with 
General Kuroki's First Army on the right wing of the Japanese ad- 
vance into Manchuria just as the two-week battle of Mukden began 
late in February on a forty-mile front. By that time the great Russian 
fortress city of Port Arthur had fallen to the Japanese, and their armies 
had advanced deep into Manchuria and rolled over the Russians at 

Like the other foreign observers, Pershing found himself in the back- 
wash of the war. Hissing politely, the Japanese kept them in the rear 
areas and would not permit them more than fleeting glimpses of the 
actual fighting. The attaches and an equally large group of news- 
paper correspondents were corralled in separate camps back among 
the supply trains and ammunition dumps, despite their vigorous and 


continuing protests. Japanese staff officers would periodically lecture 
them on the progress of their armies and occasionally take them to a 
hilltop where they could catch a glimpse of a portion of the distant 
battle line. 

Thus frustrated in their professional concerns, the military attaches 
of the various countries passed their time in fraternizing with one an- 
other and with the neighboring war correspondents, among them 
Richard Harding Davis, Ashmead Bartlett, Frederick Palmer, and 
novelist-turned-Hearst correspondent Jack London, who compared the 
courageous advances of the Japanese infantry with those of "South 
American peccary pigs in their herd charges." 

The foreign observers included the most promising officers of the 
British, French, German, Italian, and American armies, since this was 
the first large-scale war to be studied, and possibly to be learned from, 
since the Franco-Prussian War. Many of them rose to high command 
in World War I. Before Pershing's arrival, Colonel Enoch Crowder, 
who was to supervise the draft in 1917, and Captain Peyton C. March, 
who was to become chief of staff in wartime, were among the American 
observers. The British were represented by Major General Ian Hamil- 
ton, who had distinguished himself in the Boer War and was to com- 
mand the ill-fated British landing on Gallipoli in 1915, and by 
Colonel Fowke, who became a lieutenant general and adjutant gen- 
eral of the British Army. Colonel Baron Corvisart was the French 
observer, and Italy was represented by Major Caviglia, who was to 
command the armies in northern Italy and become War Minister. Per- 
shing always remembered Major Caviglia best for "waking us every 
morning singing Italian opera." The German observers were an aristo- 
cratic Prussian major named Von Etzel, who would command a di- 
vision opposite Baron Corvisart on the Meuse one day when Pershing 
visited the front, and by Captain Max Hoffmann. 

By all odds the most interesting member of the foreign military 
fraternity was Captain Hoffmann, who may well have been the only 
original genius raised up by World War I on either side. As operations 
officer under Hindenburg and Ludendorff and later as chief of staff 
of the German armies on the eastern front, he formulated the battle 
plans which resulted in the crushing defeats of the Russian forces from 
1914 to 1918 and even managed to talk down Leon Trotsky and the 
other Soviet negotiators at Brest-Litovsk, terminating those endless 
discussions by sending a German Army into the Ukraine. Hoffmann, 


a hulking, heavy-jawed fellow with a monocle screwed in one eye, was 
the antithesis of the stiff-backed Junkers who formed the bulk of his 
officers' corps. He hated military drill, was a poor horseman and a 
wretched swordsman, and ridiculed the chivalric pretensions of the 
proper Prussian officer. "If anyone comes near me with a Nibelung's 
oath of fidelity and offers to die at my side," he once said, "I shall 
knock his head off." Hoffmann breakfasted off a quart of Moselle 
and consumed large quantities of brandy during the day, much to the 
disgust of Major Von Etzel, with whom he shared quarters. 

Other foreign observers politely accepted such Japanese excuses as, 
"The battle is over for today, the enemy is in retreat," or "The Gen- 
eral thinks you would be more comfortable where you are," when 
their requests to visit the front were turned down. Hoffmann's irrita- 
tion at being secluded from the fighting often burst the bounds of 
etiquette. Once he went to General Fujii and requested permission to 
watch a Japanese attack from a nearby hill, and the Japanese smilingly 
refused. Hoffmann lost his temper and reminded Fujii that the Ger- 
mans had taught the Japanese all they knew about modern war. "You 
are yellow, you are not civilized if you will not let me go to that hill," 
Hoffmann shouted. But General Fujii quietly repeated, "You may not 
go," and turned on his heel. Later he explained to war correspondent 
Frederick Palmer that "we Japanese are paying for this military infor- 
mation with our blood; we don't propose to share it with others." 

Palmer was Pershing's frequent companion in Manchuria and took 
many long walks with him over the Manchurian hills. He recalled that 
Pershing "gave me many surprises in flashes of comment which showed 
the vast extent of his reading beyond a strictly professional range." 
They were both amused by "all the European prejudices and racial 
characteristics that had their reflection in that group of accomplished 
chosen officers in the pinpricking frustration of their confinement" and 
by the "caste superiority" of the European attaches of noble birth. 
Palmer once invited both Major Von Etzel and Captain Hoffmann to 
dinner and was somewhat surprised when only the major appeared. 
Next day Captain Pershing, with a slightly malicious grin, explained 
the matter to Palmer: 

"You are not up on the social relations of my German colleagues. 
Your invitation went to Von Etzel as the senior in rank. So he ac- 
cepted for himself. Hoffman would not have gone anyway with Von 
Etzel or Von Etzel with Hoffmann. Can you beat it? The two are liv- 


ing in that little room, sleeping in beds across from each other, and they 
have not spoken for weeks except when officially necessary. What a 
life! You'd think they'd have a good bawling out and then make up 
for convenience's sake, if not their emperor's." 

Baron Corvisart was equally entertained by the Teutonic feud. 
"Even if one Frenchman hates another," he commented, "they have 
enough savoir faire to be polite." 

During that dreary winter in the Manchurian hills, amusement was 
also provided by the mercurial Italian attache, Major Caviglia, who 
was outraged by the runty Japanese pony assigned to him by his mili- 
tary hosts. Once Caviglia's pony stumbled, rolled over him, and bent 
his ceremonial sword into a semicircle. Springing up in a rage, he re- 
fused to allow the Japanese officer accompanying him to have the 
sword repaired. "No," he shouted, "I'll not straighten it. I'll take it to 
my King so he shall see the kind of horse the Japanese gave his at- 
tache to ride and the insults his attache has endured!" 

The foreign observers were still taking the hindmost when the Japa- 
nese armies stormed into Mukden on March 10, 1905, at a cost of 
71,000 casualties. Pershing and his colleagues saw the battlefield only 
after it had been tidied up. But there were striking lessons in fire power 
and field fortification apparent even after the mopping up. Among 
these were the first employment in battle of mobile heavy artillery, of 
large complements of machine guns and intricate trench systems pro- 
tected by barbed wire. Some of the Manchurian battlefields looked 
like a rehearsal stage for World War I. "From 1905," as General 
Fuller has written, "not only had the soldier to obey, but also to think; 
to know how to live as well as how to fight, not for hours only, but 
for days on end. This urge to live made the spade as complementary to 
rifle as once shield had been to sword. . . ." 

Captain Hoffmann, in his report to the German War Office, stressed 
the new problems arising from the widespread employment of the 
machine gun and the trench system. "The most important thing in the 
world," he wrote, "is how not to mount an infantry attack." But he 
doubted whether his superiors would see the point, and he was right; 
one of them, the younger Von Moltke, scoffed at Hoffmann's report, 
"There never was such a crazy way of making war." General Hamil- 
ton's similar views, coupled with the observation that the only sensible 
thing the cavalry could do in the face of machine gun-mounted posi- 
tions was to cook rice for the infantry, were also ridiculed by his seniors 


in the British Army, one of whom commented, "He must have a tile 
loose somewhere." 

From the evidence of the several notebooks which Pershing kept in 
Manchuria, he did not concern himself overly much with the larger 
implications of the Russo-Japanese War. He meticulously recorded 
whatever impressions he could gather of the fighting qualities of the 
combatants, noting the fact that the Japanese infantry hated to under- 
take night attacks (an inhibition they lost by the time World War II 
came around). He also drew sketch after sketch of the Japanese pon- 
toon bridges, of the Russian methods of intrenching and fortifying, of 
machine-gun positions on both sides, and recorded what Russian pris- 
oners of war told him. He was diligent about reporting what he could 
learn of both combatants' transport, equipment, and morale. As a 
mere captain, coming late to the war at that, he did not dwell on the 
strategic concepts behind the Japanese victory, nor did he see enough 
of the fighting to be as deeply impressed by the tactical changes 
wrought by the Manchurian campaigns as Captain Hoffmann and 
General Hamilton were. His main concern was, in fact, with the in- 
dividual soldier on both sides, and with how enthusiastically he went 
to war. He was not at all inclined to overrate the Japanese for their 
victory over the huge but badly generaled Russian war machine 
(which was capped in May by the naval disaster inflicted on the Rus- 
sians in the straits of Tsushima). When Frederick Palmer asked him 
how the American soldier compared with the Japanese, he snorted 
indignantly, surprised that the question should be raised, "Better! The 
American is the best soldier, the best material if well trained." 

In his official report on the final operations of the war in Manchuria, 
which ran to ninety-four pages in typescript, he noted that the "Rus- 
sian army is in rotton [sic] condition . . . their officers spent their 
time in drinking." The Russians' artillery was "superior in guns to the 
Japanese but not so well handled. About seventy percent of the Rus- 
sian shells fail to burst, probably on account of defective fuses." It 
particularly interested him that in the Japanese Army "the officers 
take cover but are not called cowards; no example to the Japanese 
soldier is needed." 

Pershing concluded that the Japanese, encouraged by their successes 
on the Asiatic mainland, might endanger American interests in the 
Pacific. "Now it would be a weakness for them to possess the Philip- 


pine Archipelago," he wrote. "Yet there is no telling in the years to 
come if the Japanese rise to power." 

Despite years of living under and administrating military discipline, 
he was still bedeviled by his old failing of tardiness, which neither 
the switches of his old schoolmaster nor the frowns of senior officers 
seemed to be able to cure. Close to the end of the fighting in Manchuria, 
Pershing and other attaches were invited to a Shinto ritual honoring 
the Japanese war dead. Each foreigner was to place a sprig of ever- 
green on the altar as a mark of respect and professional condolence. 

All the foreign observers but Pershing were present as the ceremony 
began. The Airierican correspondents, well aware of his habitual 
tardiness, asked one another, "Will Pershing be on time?" The betting, 
as Frederick Palmer recalled, was all against it. 

Just before the attaches stepped forward with their sprigs of ever- 
green, however, Pershing appeared "doublequicking with a half 
minute to spare, looking the pattern plate of military form." 

With the conclusion of hostilities in Manchuria, Pershing returned 
to his young wife in Tokyo, where he was stationed for more than a 
year as military attache. Their first child, Helen, was born there Sep- 
tember 8, 1906, a few weeks before Pershing was recalled to the United 
States, and they sailed for San Francisco aboard the Empress of 

The Pershings were still en route to San Francisco when President 
Roosevelt made the announcement that electrified the Army: he was 
promoting Pershing from captain to brigadier general. Pershing thus 
was jumped four grades, over the heads of exactly 862 officers who 
were senior to him. Widespread indignation was expressed in army 
posts from Governors Island to Manila, and many fellow officers 
never forgave him the promotion, attributing it to the influence of his 
father-in-law who, they never tired of pointing out, was chairman of 
the Senate's Military Affairs Committee. They ignored the fact that 
President Roosevelt had hinted at the promotion three years earlier, 
before Pershing had even met Senator Warren or his daughter. They 
also overlooked certain precedents for the promotion, such as Leon- 
ard Wood's elevation from captain in the Medical Corps, Tasker H. 
Bliss's from major in the Commissary Department, Albert L. Mills's 


from cavalry captain, all to the same rank of brigadier, all without 
provoking anything like as much bitterness. 

Much of the newspaper comment and many of the younger army 
officers were favorably inclined to Pershing's promotion. Captain Rob- 
ert Lee Bullard, who was impressed by his work in the Philippines, 
was "convinced of Pershing's efficiency, notwithstanding the wide 
criticism of his promotion, notwithstanding the common assertion that 
it was due to the senatorial influence of his father-in-law," and wrote 
him a letter of congratulations. "To which," Bullard wryly added, "I 
received no answer." 

A scattering of newspapers used the Pershing promotion as an issue 
for criticism of the Roosevelt administration. The Columbus Sun 
commented that "for the extraordinary favor that has been done him, 
it is not apparent where he has performed the extraordinary service." 
The New York Evening Post published a letter from an army officer, 
whose name it withheld, saying that "nothing in the history of the army 
has caused such discontent and demoralization." The Manila Sun said 
his promotion "comes as a surprise to those who knew him and his 
military record." The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in an editorial, listed 
as "steps of the ladder of promotion" of an ambitious officer "social 
pull, service in Washington, good luck hi an adventure of doubtful 
military value . . . and perhaps 'selection in marriage' "and left no 
doubt that it was referring to Pershing. 

The new general and his wife returned to the United States on Octo- 
ber 16, 1906, while the controversy was still going strong. Pershing 
himself refrained from making any public statements on his promo- 
tion, nor did he ever refer to it in any of the diaries and notebooks he 
kept intermittently at the time. But the bitterness and backbiting 
which his promotion aroused undoubtedly left their mark on him, 
particularly the unmistakably antagonistic attitude of many of his 
brother officers; and quite probably it was reflected a dozen years 
hence in his ruthless, if necessary, shaking out of human clinkers in the 
higher echelons of the American Expeditionary Force in France. 
"Comrades in arms," henceforth, must have been only an echoingly 
empty phrase to him. It was characteristic that in the many scrap- 
books he kept on his career he meticulously preserved all the critical 
comments as well as the laudatory ones. 

With his intensely impersonal attitude, it was also in character that 
he made no effort to cozen public opinion. While he was in Washing- 


ton between assignments late in 1906, he came out of a hotel one day 
and noticed that the doorman was clad in the full-dress uniform of 
a general officer of the United States Army. Most officers would proba- 
bly have been more amused than anything else or at least shrugged 
it off. Pershing summoned the nearest policeman and insisted that the 
doorman be arrested on a charge of impersonating an officer. 

During that waiting period he drew some comfort, perhaps, from 
President Roosevelt's reply to criticism of his promotion: "To pro- 
mote a man because he married a senator's daughter would be in- 
famy; to refuse him promotion for the same reason would be equal 

The War Department, meanwhile, was having trouble deciding 
what to do with its new brigadier. At first it was announced that Per- 
shing would be sent back to the Philippines to command the Depart- 
ment of the Visayas in the middle of the island chain, replacing 
Major General Jesse M. Lee, who was retiring on January 1, 1907. 
This command called for an officer of two-star rank, however, and 
it was decided to assign him to the almost equally important brigade 
post at Fort McKinley on Luzon. 

It was while the Pershings were on their way to Manila in mid- 
December that the only personal scandal of Pershing's career broke 
over his head, obviously an outgrowth of the professional jealousy 
festering over his promotion. 

In an article widely quoted and reprinted in the American news- 
papers, the Manila American on December 18, 1906, charged that 
Pershing, while stationed at Zamboanga a half-dozen years earlier, had 
"lived almost openly" with a Filipino girl named Joaquina Bondoy 
Ignacio, that he and the girl had set up housekeeping in a nipa cottage 
near the post. Pershing, it was charged, had fathered two of Jo- 
aquina's children, a four-year-old girl named Petronilla, and another 
child who died in the cholera epidemic of 1902. Joaquina was now 
married to an American, a civilian employee named William Shinn, 
who was quoted as saying that "an emissary of General Pershing ap- 
proached Joaquina in the spring of this year with an offer of $50 a 
month as hush money. She refused to accept, saying that Pershing had 
always been kind to her and that she would not expose him." The 
Manila American story also stated that Joaquina was one of four sis- 
ters who operated a canteen patronized by army officers, and that 


"rumor credits Joaquina with having borne two other children to a 
Spanish officer before the American occupation." 

The charges caused a furor, not only because they involved a high 
American officer but because mothers and wives of soldiers serving in 
the Philippines naturally suspected that their menfolk may have been 
guilty of liaisons similar to the one charged against Pershing. The Chi- 
cago Journal, reporting from Washington on December 19, only added 
fuel to their flaming suspicions when it announced that "at least fifty 
other cases of a similar nature involving army officers" were being 
investigated and the culprits "may be exposed." Two days later the 
New York World published a chop-licking dissertation (though with 
a high sociological gloss) on the "querida [sweetheart] system" ob- 
taining among soldiers stationed for two or more years away from 
their loved ones in the States. "The querida system, officers with ex- 
perience in the Philippines say, is very popular with some army men 
and does not throw discredit on the woman concerned. The sweet- 
hearts live together as long as they wish and then separate. When 
Filipino men are one of the parties to this trial contract, they are sup- 
posed to care for the children, but when American men break the 
union the offspring are thrown on the mother." 

The World subsequently reported that the charges against Pershing 
"were instigated by jealous officers who hated to see Pershing put over 
their heads." 

In succeeding weeks there were widespread demands that Pershing 
be cashiered as morally unfit to command American troops, but his 
friends in high places and some of lesser station came to his defense 
with vigorous loyalty. His father-in-law, Senator Warren, told news- 
papermen in Washington that neither he nor his daughter believed 
there was any truth in the Manila American's charges. He explained 
that earlier that year an anonymous letter had been sent to the War 
Department containing the same accusations and that it had been sub- 
mitted to General Davis, Pershing's commanding officer at the time, 
who labeled the charges false. "Disgruntled persons," said Senator 
Warren, were responsible for the scandalous charges in the Manila 
newspaper. The same day, in the Washington Post, Elihu Root, now 
Secretary of State, and William H. Taft, the new Secretary of War, 
both were quoted as saying there was no foundation to the story. 

Two captains, named Swobe and Cloman, who had served in Zam- 
boanga with Pershing came forward to defend him. Both had known 


him intimately and asserted that Pershing had lived in bachelor offi- 
cers' quarters on the post, as they did, and that he had not set up any 
irregular living arrangements with a Filipino. Captain Swobe also told 
a Kansas City Star reporter that he recalled the Bondoy sisters, 
Joaquina among them, and the joking that went on around the can- 
teen where they dispensed cigars and refreshments to the American 
soldiers. A number of their children played around the canteen, and 
when the sisters were asked who had fathered them they would jok- 
ingly reply, "President Roosevelt" or "Governor Taft" or "General 
Wood," or any other officer who came into their minds. That, said 
Captain Swobe, was the baseless inception of the rumor concerning 
General Pershing. 

The only person who refused to comment was Pershing himself. 

As for Mrs. Pershing, she wrote her father a warmly loyal letter 
from Tokyo, apparently having read of the charges against her hus- 
band when they stopped off in Japan en route to the Philippines, and 
Senator Warren released it for publication. "Dear Papa If any stories 
about Jack come to you to his discredit don't believe them," she wrote. 
"They are not true and you may be sure of it." 

The scandal fizzled out after the War Department announced that 
it had concluded the charges against General Pershing were not even 
worthy of investigation. It was briefly revived in 1912 when reports 
were circulated that Pershing was to be appointed the superintendent 
of the United States Military Academy. The New York World some- 
what gratuitously recalled the charges against him and pointed out 
that Pershing "did not demand the usual 'court of honor' to vindicate 
himself. He ignored the sensational allegations and his wife stead- 
fastly maintained her belief in her husband's innocence." It was en- 
tirely in character for Pershing to refuse to comment on attacks against 
him, unless they were made officially. "Let the record speak for itself," 
was his invariable reply to suggestions that he defend himself against 
criticism. He meticulously clipped all the stories concerning the scan- 
dal and preserved them in the scrapbooks which are part of the Per- 
shing Papers. In 1912, when the matter was rehashed, he engaged 
James Ross, a former judge of the Court of First Instance of the Philip- 
pines, to gather affidavits and any other information which might re- 
fute the accusation, on the possibility that they might be needed. They 
weren't, so the independent inquiry was dropped. That was the only 
indication he ever gave regarding his own attitude toward the charges. 


Pershing's second tour of duty in the Philippines, despite the con- 
troversy and mudslinging which preceded his arrival, began on a note 
of grace. The man whom he was replacing in command of Fort Mc- 
Kinley, Colonel Henry P. Kingsbury, had been a captain in the 6th 
Cavalry when Pershing was a second lieutenant. Military etiquette re- 
quired Colonel Kingsbury to call on General Pershing, his senior in 
rank if not in service. Before Colonel Kingsbury had a chance to pre- 
sent himself, however, he was surprised to receive a telephone call 
from General Pershing. The conversation, according to Colonel Kings- 
bury, was as follows: 

PERSHING "How are you, Colonel?" 
KINGSBURY "I'm all right, General. How are you?" 
PERSHING "You don't like my coming here to command perhaps." 
KINGSBURY "Why, General, I don't see how that makes any dif- 
ference. You are a general officer. On the contrary, I'm glad you came 
to the post." 

PERSHING "May I come over and see you?" 
KINGSBURY "I'd be highly honored if you did, sir." 

That was the beginning of several pleasant years as commanding 
officer of Fort McKinley and the brigade posted there. His second 
daughter, Anne, was born in March of 1908 in the cool mountain 
air of Baguio, the hill station where officers' wives went during the 
hot season. Later that year Pershing, accompanied by his wife, was 
sent to Europe to inspect and report on the efficiency of the European 
armies. He became mysteriously ill in Paris and was bundled off to 
Mannheim, one of the spas favored by Edwardians to cure all bodily 
aches and ailments. The doctors there recommended that he give up 
smoking, although, as he later told a New York Times reporter, "his 
cigar was part of his life." Pershing thought it over for a day or two 
and then decided to give up cigars. Breaking the habit was easy 
enough, he said; "the only hard thing was in making up my mind." 
The next year, 1909, Pershing was again separated temporarily from 
his command, this time by illness. He had contracted sprue, a 
dysentery-like tropical disease which attacked the digestive tract, caus- 
ing anemia and other side effects. Pershing was ordered to return to 
the United States for treatment and spent six months at the Hot 
Springs (Arkansas) Army and Navy Hospital. Mrs. Pershing, mean- 


while, gave birth to their third child and first son, Francis Warren, in 
her home town of Cheyenne, Wyoming. 

When the Pershing family returned to the islands, the general was 
appointed governor of the Moro Province, including Mindanao and 
the Sulu Islands which formed the tail bone of the Philippine archi- 
pelago. The province as a whole was considered "pacified," but Mos- 
lem agitators, many of them priests and Arab missionaries, kept the 
native population stirred up, particularly on the island of Jolo. 

Through most of his first year as military governor, Pershing la- 
bored to improve the living conditions, the economy, and the morale 
of his province. In consultation with army engineers he drew up a plan 
for harnessing the Tumaga River, which periodically flooded the 
towns along its course, and providing more irrigation ditches in the 
Zamboanga district for year-round rice planting. The Voz de Min- 
danao commented that "there is no doubt whatever that General 
Pershing is complying with the promises he made of bettering in every 
mode possible the condition of the province." From his headquarters 
in Zamboanga he made frequent tours of the back country and the 
mountain barrios and traveled continually by navy cutter to keep an 
eye on conditions in the Sulu Islands extending southeastward toward 

Under the strain of tropical service and the inbred social life of 
the scattered garrisons, his own subordinates often distracted him from 
more important administrative functions. Once it was the suicide of 
a young lieutenant, another time a sort of Somerset Maugham comedy 
which, in miniature, exposed the attitudes of the apprentice colonizers. 
The setting of the latter incident was the island of Basilan; the leading 
characters were Captain D. and Lieutenant F. (their full names may 
be found in the Pershing Papers), the captain's wife and a Filipino 
girl. Lieutenant F., a young Bostonian, had attracted Pershing's at- 
tention by studying the native dialects and customs as Pershing had 
years earlier. In April of 1910 he horrified the small American com- 
munity on Basilan by announcing his intention of marrying a Filipino 

Captain D., his commanding officer, wrote Pershing on April 21, 
asking for Lieutenant F.'s transfer "because he has become a squaw 
man, hurting the service in general and us here in particular." When 
the captain failed to dissuade him, Mrs. D. took up the cause with 
more emotional arguments of her own, pointing out that the lieu- 


tenant's mother had already been saddened by the suicide of another 
son, and his marriage to a Filipino might be the death of her. Lieu- 
tenant F. wept, Mrs. D. wept with him, but all to no avail. 

Subsequent letters from Captain D. reported that the lieutenant had 
married the girl, accepting the fact that he and his bride would be 
ostracized by the rest of the American community. 

The Americans on Basilan were so determined to "cut" the newly- 
weds that Captain D. and a Doctor W. hacked a new trail through the 
jungle so that none of the Americans would have to pass their home. 
In his distress, Captain D. wrote Pershing that "I would beg that he 
be given a chance to atone ... by hard work and faithful service, in 
some other company, preferably one commanded by a squaw cap- 

General Pershing, not at all affected by the American colony's so- 
cial distress, refused Captain D.'s pleas and kept Lieutenant F. at his 
post. In a few months the Americans learned to accept the situation, 
and soon Captain D. and Lieutenant F. were leading an expedition 
into the interior, with the former reporting enthusiastically on his sub- 
ordinate's abilities as a leader of Moro Scouts. The lieutenant sub- 
sequently was promoted to captain and performed excellently as a 
military administrator in the Lake Lanao district on Mindanao. Be- 
fore leaving the Philippines for the last time, Pershing, who had be- 
nignly watched over the young man's career, took the occasion to 
"express to you the very high opinion I hold of you as a soldier and 
as an administrator among uncivilized people." 

A decade after the United States moved into the southern islands 
the everyday life of the Americans was still hazardous, even in the 
headquarters town of Zamboanga. Juramentados, their knives flash- 
ing in the midday sun, still ran amuck, cutting down any Christian, 
man, woman, or child, who crossed their path. Sentries walked their 
posts around the cantonments twenty-four hours a day, but no one 
could feel safe until the day his tour ended and a steamer took him 
north to Manila and home. The letter of a young American woman, 
the wife of an army officer stationed on Mindanao, described the con- 
stant fear and tension under which the Americans lived: 

"Last December a Moro attacked a captain, who fired six .38 caliber 
shots into him. The Moro didn't stop running for a second; he came 
right on, cut the captain to pieces with his bolo and started on his way 


rejoicing, when a guard finally finished him with a .45 caliber bullet. 
That is the size of pistol everyone here carries. I am just beginning to 
go around without feeling scared to death. Joe says I will give him 
nervous prostration if I don't stop grabbing him and saying, 'What's 
that?' ... I suppose I shall look back on this as a great experience, 
but just at present I spend my time hoping and praying I won't have 
cholera or be boloed by a Moro." 

Pershing himself described two juramentado attacks which took 
place while he was visiting the island of Jolo in April of 1911, several 
months before he decided to disarm all the Moros. A young lieutenant 
of the 2nd Cavalry was strolling through a crowd of natives near the 
cockpit outside the main gate of the Asturias Barracks when a Moro 
ceremonially clad all in white approached. The crowd scattered hi a 
panic. Attacking from the rear, the juramentado slashed the lieutenant 
to death with his barong. A few minutes later the guard at the barracks 
gate caught up with the assassin and shot him to death. Several days 
later, Pershing wrote General J. Franklin Bell in Manila, two Moros 
came to the Asturias guardhouse, engaged the sergeant on duty in 
conversation, then fell on him without warning with their barongs. 
They killed him before another guard slew them. "The only safeguard 
against it," Pershing wrote, referring to the terroristic practice of jura- 
mentado, "is eternal vigilance." He considered that total disarmament 
was not feasible as yet, explaining, "Until we are in a position to afford 
protection to all Moros in every part of the Sulu Archipelago, it is idle 
to talk of requiring them to go about without some means of protecting 
their own lives." 

General Bliss, commanding the Philippine Division, suggested to 
Pershing on May 23, 1911, that he adopt the methods used by the 
British in India to deal with Mohammedan fanaticism. Juramentados, 
Bliss recommended, should be buried with the carcass of a pig or en- 
cased in a pigskin, which meant to any Mohammedan that he would 
spend eternity in a state of contamination. "This I think a good plan, 
for if anything will discourage the juramentado it is the prospect of 
going to hell instead of heaven," Bliss wrote. He recognized that there 
might be an outcry of protest from humanitarians over such a meas- 
ure, but "you can rely on me to stand by you in maintaining this cus- 
tom. It is the only possible thing we can do to discourage crazy 

Pershing, however, realized that General Bliss's suggestion, while 


ingenious, might arouse an enduring bitterness among the whole Moro 
population. The British in India, for all their condign punishments, 
including the practice of shooting natives out of cannon, had never 
managed to rule except by the exercise of force, and he was intent on 
conciliating the Moros to the extent that they could soon be handed 
over to civilian administrators. 

His approach was paternalistic and would probably have seemed 
to verge on the maudlin to any proper British colonial officer. It was 
exemplified by a letter he wrote the Moros of the Taglibi district on 
Jolo: "I am writing this letter that you may know that I want my 
children to come in and stop fighting. We do not want any more fight- 
ing. Too many Moros and their women may be killed. . . . These 
guns are not worth fighting for. . . . Your people are better off not 
to have these guns as we can then have peace in the island. The gov- 
ernment will pay for all guns. ... If your people need rice to eat, 
the government will give it to them. . . . I want to see all of my people 
and speak to them so that we may forever be friends." 

The letter was one of several he collected years later for the mem- 
oir of his early career that was never published. "This letter," he later 
wrote on the top of it, "might be interesting to quote to show simplicity 

Pershing was an eminently practical man as well as a relatively 
progressive student of the art of colonization. He had seen and read 
enough of history to know that the refusal to understand and sympa- 
thize with a subject people and the use of naked force as a substitute 
resulted only in such tragic culminations as the Ghost Dance rebellion 
of the Sioux, the Sepoy Rebellion in India, the Belgian slaughter of 
natives in the Congo, the continuing colonial warfare of the French in 
North Africa, Madagascar, and Indochina . . . and that in the end 
those methods were self-defeating. 

His hope of avoiding an armed showdown with the more unruly 
Moros was not entirely realized, but he worked endlessly to promote 
understanding between the native population and the American ad- 
ministration. He established the Sulu News, published in Zamboanga 
in both the English language and the Sulu dialect, to "explain to the 
Moros the policies of the provincial government." In its first issue, 
June 30, 1911, Pershing wrote: "I think the most wholesome advice I 
can give the Moro readers of this periodical is that they devote them- 
selves more earnestly to agriculture. The Moro country still has an 


abundance of fertile soil which the Moros can plant and own if they 
wish. In subsequent numbers this paper will explain to the Moros just 
how they must proceed to obtain a legal title to their farms. . . ." 

Early in his administration Pershing also undertook to promote a 
homogenization of the Moros with Filipinos living in the Moro Prov- 
ince, Christian and pagan alike, since much of the murder and ban- 
ditry in the mountains and valleys of the interior were directed against 
the less volatile non-Mohammedan peoples. On the occasion of Sec- 
retary of War Jacob M. Dickinson's visit to Zamboango, a mass meet- 
ing of the natives was held, with the hope that the Moros and the 
Christian Filipinos, in particular, might iron out their differences. The 
meeting, however, soon turned into a first-class row. Christian Fili- 
pino speakers demanded that they be domiciled in a separate province, 
with their own government and their own representatives in the Legis- 
lative Assembly. To which the Moro Datu Sacaluran, in turban and 
full regalia, responded: "I am an old man. I do not want any more 
trouble. But if it should come to that, that we shall be given over to 
the Filipinos, I still would fight." Hadji Nuno, a religious leader, took 
up the refrain: "We are a different race; we have a different religion; 
we are Mohammedans. And if we should be given over to the Fili- 
pinos, how much more would they treat us badly, when they treated 
even the Spanish badly who were their own mothers and their own 
fathers in generation? We far prefer to be in the hands of the Ameri- 
cans, who are father and mother to, us now, than to be turned over to 
another people." Secretary of War Dickinson agreed with the Moro 
position, scorning the proposals of Christian Filipinos that they were 
"ready and willing to take over the government" of Mindanao. 

Pershing accompanied Governor General Forbes on a visit to the 
Bukidnon district of Mindanao shortly after this unsuccessful effort to 
ameliorate the differences between the Moros and the Christian Fili- 
pinos. Forbes found the Moros of that region "earnest, quiet, modest, 
and generally pleasing in spite of their ugliness," and peacefully set- 
tled in producing honey, gums, rattan, resin, wax, Manila hemp, 
tobacco, woven cloth and mats. Riding into the town of Tanculan, 
Forbes wrote, they were "greeted with the most cordial demonstrations 
by the populace and a ceremonial dance by a warrior who danced 
backward in front of them, holding a spear with which he made pre- 
tended thrusts as he leapt backward purporting to prevent their ad- 
vance. This seemed a curious form of welcome but it was as a matter 


of fact performed in all friendliness." They found the streets of the 
town "scrupulously clean, the buildings neatly fenced from the road, 
and the yards planted with fruits and flowering shrubs." And the resi- 
dents of Tanculan had taken up baseball, taught them by American 
soldiers, as a token of their submitting to Americanization. The young 
people of the town, in fact, invited the visiting Americans to play ball 
with them. "Accepting this offer, the Governor General occupied one 
base, General Pershing another, one of the secretaries caught, while 
the aides-de-camp were placed in other positions, and a few of the 
native boys of the town were borrowed for fielders." What a proper 
British or French colonial officer would have made of American 
proconsuls playing baseball with the natives is an interesting specula- 

General Pershing, however, was well aware that many of the Moros 
were still reluctant to lay down then: bolos and krises in favor of the 
baseball bat or the plow. To the War Department he recommended 
a shifting of forces to "keep down the lawless element among the 
Moros and pagan tribes." He wrote, "There should be a regimental 
post on the Island of Jolo, a brigade post in the Lake Lanao division 
and the regimental post in some point in the vicinity of Zamboanga, 
besides smaller posts at Fort Overton and Malabang. . . . Jolo is 
the strategical site for the post in the Sulu Archipelago. From there 
any point in the Island can be quickly reached and the others of the 
Sulu group can be easily controlled. It possesses a good harbor and 
is otherwise well situated as a military station. Mounted troops can go 
anywhere on the Island and they exert more influence over the Moros 
than dismounted troops." He also wanted a telegraph line strung to 
the Davao district to increase the speed of his communications. 

Subsequently, Pershing reported even more critically on the state 
of the military forces in his province. The field artillery, he said, was 
"below the required standards" and cavalry efficiency had also 
slipped. He protested giving enlisted men double credit for service in 
the Philippines and recommended that the strength of infantry regi- 
ments be kept to at least 1000 men, 2400 if on active service. The 
Philippine Scouts, he believed, should be increased. "Considering their 
low cost of maintenance I believe it is poor policy not to keep them 
up to the authorized maximum strength of 12,000, reducing the gar- 
rison of American troops accordingly." He also suggested the organi- 


zation of a native cavalry force, "mounted on hardy native ponies 
which require none of the expensive hay of the American horse." The 
native soldiery should be provided with canteens dispensing beer and 
light wines to "furnish soldiers with a club of their own and save 
many from the grog shops and brothels." 

Pershing's concern with the disposition and readiness of his mili- 
tary forces was only natural under the circumstances. He had decided 
on a disarmament policy for the Moros to be applied with force if 
necessary, and he knew there were many, particularly on the island 
of Jolo, who would resist it. The sultans of Sulu and Maguidano, 
whom the Americans recognized as the nominal rulers of the islands 
so long as they co-operated with the United States administrators, did 
not oppose the disarmament. It was the militant datus, the lesser 
tribal chiefs, who whipped up their people into a furious resentment. 
On Mindanao, rifles and other arms were turned in by the thousands, 
even in the remote mountain districts. But the Joloanos were being 
inflamed to the point of revolt by agitators who pointed out that the 
Moros were paying American taxes and yet were deprived of slaves 
and the right to have more than one wife. 

On Jolo the flash point of open rebellion was reached after General 
Pershing issued his order of September 8, 1911: "It is therefore de- 
clared to be unlawful for any person within the Moro Province to 
acquire, possess or have the custody of any rifle, musket, carbine, 
shotgun, revolver, pistol or other deadly weapon from which a bullet, 
ball, shot, shell or other missile or missiles may be discharged by 
means of gunpowder or other explosive, or to carry, concealed or 
otherwise on his person, any bowie knife, dirk, dagger, kris, campilan, 
spear, or other deadly cutting or thrusting weapons, except tools used 
exclusively for working purposes having blades less than fifteen inches 
in length, without permission of the Governor of the Moro Prov- 
ince. . . ." 

Resistance to this order flared up almost immediately on Jolo, with 
hundreds of Moros "going off the reservation" rather than turn in their 
weapons. By mid-November it was apparent that a campaign would 
have to be undertaken against them, and Pershing decided to lead it 
in person. He particularly wanted to avoid any more charges of 
"massacre" in the States. Leaving his wife and children, however, was 
painful, as his letters from Jolo indicated in touching detail. Like many 
men who marry late in life, Pershing was an exceedingly devoted hus- 


band and father. Every morning he and his family went swimming 
in the Sulu Sea, practically at their doorstep. His wife and children, 
he wrote, "took to the water like ducklings. But in this I was like an 
old hen. I was never at ease out of my depth and often fluttered about 
the shore in dismay when my wife would swim half a mile straight 
out into the sea." Officers who served with him in Zamboanga related 
that he often hurried home from his office to have an hour or so with 
his children before their bedtime. Having been a schoolteacher in his 
youth, he insisted on hearing then: lessons and making certain that, 
being reared in an exotic and languorous port on the southern seas, 
they received a proper American education. One decidedly exotic 
touch to the Pershing children's upbringing was the fact that their play- 
house was the former honeymoon cottage of a Moro chieftain. When 
the Datu Dicky of Jolo, who was two feet three inches tall and reputed 
to be the smallest man in the world, took a midget bride, Pershing 
presented them with a tiny house on stilts with furnishings in propor- 
tion in which to spend their honeymoon. On leaving for Jolo several 
months later, the Datu Dicky presented it to the Pershing children. 

Pershing's only surviving child, Warren, recalls that just before leav- 
ing on the Jolo campaign his father gave him a Philippine pony which 
he undoubtedly regarded as the suitable birthday present for a cavalry- 
man's son. Warren then was barely able to walk, let alone ride any- 
thing on four feet. One afternoon, just as his father was returning 
home, Warren tumbled off the pony and into the canal which ran in 
front of the Pershing house. His father hauled him out and took him 
into the house. "Then," Warren recalls, "the old gent put me to bed 
and gave me a large dose of castor oil, which was his sovereign remedy 
for any and all the ailments of childhood." 

During Pershing's absence on Jolo, Mrs. Pershing and her three 
children journeyed to the mountain resort at Baguio, on Luzon, with 
the hope that he would be able to join them by Christmastime. The 
affectionate tone of his letters would probably have amazed the men 
who served under "Black Jack" and considered him a hard-driving, 
iron-britched old cavalryman without a tender or sentimental fiber in 
his character. He addressed his wife as "Darlingest," "Dearest Dar- 
ling," "My Darling Frankie," and "Frances Sweetheart." Often he 
signed himself "Jackie." He would close his letters with such phrases 
as "I must say good night to my precious ones" . . . "Good night. Kiss 
those dear kidlets for me. Their popa. ..." 

His first letters concerning the situation on Jolo were fairly opti- 


mistic, reflecting a hope that open rebellion could be avoided. On 
November 28, 1911, he wrote Mrs. Pershing: "While I do not antici- 
pate anything like a general stampede against us or as some have pre- 
dicted a 'Holy War' I do not want to be caught napping so I have 
plenty of troops. The whole 30th Infantry is here, eight troops of the 
2nd Cavalry, four companies of Scouts and two companies of Con- 
stabulary." Next day, however, he wrote that he was taking reinforce- 
ments to the camp at Taglibi which was "attacked last night just as 
the moon went down and the Moros nearly succeeded in getting in. 
. . . There were about 200 or 300 Moros in all, so the troops esti- 
mate. This is possibly rather high. Thanks to our trenches none of our 
men were hurt., . . . It is rumored that a strong attack is to be made 
tonight. . . . You can never tell what the Moros are going to do." 

Meanwhile, he was combing out officers whom he considered in- 
competent or worse. He complained of one senior officer whom he 
sent back to department headquarters at Zamboanga, "He is loco for 
sure. I can't run this place with such an old fool as he is. He has got 
to go. He is a windbag and an obstructionist. He fights with every- 
body and is a general nuisance." Regarding another high-ranking offi- 
cer, he wrote, "K is a bullheaded bull hi a china shop" but "I 

cannot relieve him now without a scandal." 

Pershing hoped that swift action against "the disaffected section east 
of the town of Jolo" and "a combined movement of five columns to 
comb the Taglibi country" would prevent a general uprising. "I intend 
to give them a drubbing," he wrote his wife "... I have always said 
it was an error to sit idly by and let these savages shoot you up without 
going after them." A few days later he wrote regretfully that "I see now 
that it is going to be impossible for me to get to Baguio for Christmas. 
This job is going to keep me here for a couple of months. It is going 
to be a sad Christmas." 

What particularly worried him during the first weeks of December, 
as it became more apparent that his flying columns would not be able 
to cauterize all the "disaffected" portions of Jolo, was the probability 
that the Moros would take to a mountaintop fort with their women and 
children and an all-out fight would be necessary. "I should dread to 
think of having to kill women and children," he wrote Mrs. Pershing, 
and expressed the hope that he would be able to "make a quick night 
movement and cross the mountain behind them and get between them 
and the top of the hills they intend to occupy." 

Despite all his efforts, however, the dissident Moros, with their 


women and children, fled to the crater of the extinct volcano, a natural 
fortress, which was called Bud Dajo. On that craggy height, above the 
steep flanks of the burned-out volcano, the Moros had fought their 
most desperate and futile battle in 1906, while General Wood was 
governor of the Moro Province. The Americans had assaulted the 
crater without artillery preparation, lost heavily themselves, and killed 
between 600 and 900 men, women, and children. The outcry in the 
United States against this bloody by-product of our somewhat tenta- 
tive venture into imperialism was tremendous. 

Even those who favored American custody of the Philippines re- 
garded the killing of women and children an unpardonable crime 
against humanity. The protestants were, of course, ignorant of the 
special conditions of combat in the southern islands. A soldier being 
fired upon in the heat of battle has neither the time nor the inclination, 
even if he were able to single them out in the smoke and confusion, to 
differentiate by age or sex whoever is trying to kill him. The only 
alternatives were to call off the battle (since Moro warriors refused 
all pleas to release the women and children from a surrounded fort) 
and give the Moros their way, or to attempt a separation of the men 
from their families. Pershing tried the second alternative at Bud Dajo 
and failed. In almost every letter he wrote his wife from mid-December 
on, however, he reiterated his determination to avoid having the deaths 
of women and children on his record or his conscience. 

As the American columns drew closer to the fortified crater of Bud 
Dajo and moved up to siege positions, he wrote on December 14 that 
he planned "no hasty assaults against strong intrenchments. I shall use 
as few men and kill as few Moros as possible. . . . Moros cannot 
stand a siege. . . ." He avowed that he would force the surrender of 
Bud Dajo by siege "if it takes ten years to do it." On December 18 
he wrote his wife, "I shall not kill women and children if I can help it," 
and on December 19, "Those women and children on Dajo distress 
me very much. Am going to get them down if possible." 

Pershing took personal command of the battle line circling Bud 
Dajo on December 18; whatever happened, the responsibility was go- 
ing to be his alone. Under his orders a wide strip of jungle was cleared 
around the crater so that no Moro could leave the fort for supplies, the 
rebels having food for only a few days in their fort, thanks to the swift 
envelopment of the American forces. Pershing disposed a total of 1000 
troops on the mountain, half of them U.S. regulars and half Philip- 
pine Scouts and Constabulary, and on December 20 wrote that he had 


completed the job of shutting off supplies, but "I fear we must go in 
after them." 

He could have opened up with his artillery and slaughtered the 
several hundred "forted-up" Moros without losing a man, but decided 
to play a waiting game. He put the Philippine Scouts under the ca- 
pable Major E. G. Peyton in the front lines, with the regulars in sup- 
porting positions. Barbed wire was strung up to prevent the Moros 
from wriggling into his positions and running amuck with their knives. 
Double sentry posts, one man armed with a rifle and the other with a 
shotgun, surrounded Pershing's camp. Night after night from then on 
the Moros made desperate sallies from their crater, with blind head-on 
fire fights in the darkness. The troops were under a terrific strain, 
manning their positions during the day, fearful of closing their eyes 
for a moment on the perimeter at night. 

By Christmas eve the Moros were close to starvation and in a state 
of wild despair. Pershing scrawled a few lines to his wife that night on 
a field-message pad: "There'll be some fighting tonight. These desper- 
ate Moros will make a strong effort to get out. The firing has already 
begun, and it's heavy all along the line. The night is dark so shooting 
is a guess. . . ." 

Early the next day his message to his wife was even more laconic: 
". . . The second Christmas we have been apart. . . . Fighting last 
night was terrific. ..." 

Later that day, however, Pershing saw his purpose accomplished, 
a bloodless victory won and a comparatively peaceful Christmas night 
on Bud Dajo. The Moros decided to surrender, all but forty-seven 
who fled into the jungle while the others were filing down from the 
crater under the American guns. The fugitives were captured days 
later by a pursuing column of Philippine Scouts. On December 29, 
1911, Governor General Forbes cabled the War Department, "Per- 
shing reports 300 Moros surrendered; opposition to disarmament 
practically ended. Consider his management of affairs masterly." 

The Moro country was mostly at peace for a year following the 
surrender on Bud Dajo. Pershing took a breather after that campaign 
and joined his wife and children at Baguio. During his stay at the hill 
station he and three other officers made a 400-mile tour of the moun- 
tains of central Luzon on horseback. The family returned aboard the 
cutter Samar, resuming their life in Zamboanga, where the fourth and 
last child, Mary Margaret, was born on May 20, 1912. 

Late in the autumn of 1912, Pershing received disturbing reports 


from Jolo again. The Moros of the Latiward district had retired to 
Mount Bagsak with their entire population of "6,000 to 10,000 souls." 
Succeeding events indicated that another campaign would have to be 
undertaken. Again Pershing's principal concern, as he wrote Governor 
General Forbes on February 28, 1913, was the lives of the Moro 
women and children. "The nature of the Joloano Moro is such that 
he is not at all overawed or impressed by an overwhelming force. If 
he takes a notion to fight, he will fight regardless of the number of men 
he thinks are to be brought against him. You cannot bluff him. There 
are already enough troops on the Island of Jolo to smother the defiant 
element, but the conditions are such that if we attempt such a thing 
the loss of life among innocent women and children would be very 
great. It is estimated that there are only about 300 arms altogether in 
the Island of Jolo and that these are assembled in Latiward on top of 
Mt. Bagsak in fortified cottas. It is a common thing among these people 
to have the women and children follow them into these cottas so that 
we have there probably five or six times as many women and children 
as armed men. . . ." 

He never believed, Pershing continued, that "the Moros who are now 
opposing us will all yield without a fight, yet I am not prepared to rush 
in and attack them while they are surrounded by their women and 
children as I think most of the women and children can be induced to 
return to their homes. . . . Coolness and patience are the requisites 
required. I fully appreciate your confidence in my ability to handle it, 
and you may rest assured that my best efforts are being put forth to 
carry out the purpose of our undertakingdisarmament with as little 
disturbance and as little loss of life as possible." 

Pershing spent "months of negotiation," according to Forbes, in try- 
ing to persuade the Latiward Moros to cease their defiance of authority. 
But they could not be coaxed into peaceful disarmament. The Datu 
Amil and his followers established themselves on the lip of an extinct 
volcano crowning Mount Bagsak, and Pershing then realized he would 
have to go in after them. 

Early in June 1913 his columns of Philippine Scouts and regular 
infantry were on the march, drawing a cordon around the Latiward 
district, then moving on Mount Bagsak itself. "Their forts and trenches 
on the precipitous side of the crater not only supported each other," 
Pershing reported to the commanding general at Manila, "but were 
defended with modern arms." On June 11 five days of battle began as 
"the Moros fanatically and continuously tried to rush the American 


lines." He reported to headquarters at Manila that the Moros "were 
caught unawares with most of their non-combatant followers absent," 
in a sudden movement which interposed the American forces between 
the fort and the Latiward villages. 

Pershing pushed his lines to within a hundred yards of the Moro 
fort and ordered a bombardment from noon to dusk on June 15. 
Shrieking and swinging their swords, the Moros tried to escape the 
bombardment and rush the Americans, but were thrown back or 
slaughtered in every attempt. At moonrise, from positions only fifteen 
yards from the parapet of the Moro fort, Pershing gave the signal for 
the assault, with Major George C. Shaw commanding the right wing 
with Company M, 8th Infantry, and the 40th Company of the Philip- 
pine Scouts, and Captain Taylor A. Nichols the left wing with the 29th, 
51st, and 52nd Companies of the Philippine Scouts, the latter two 
companies being composed largely of Moros. Captain Nichols was 
killed, and Pershing himself hurried forward to push the attack. In a 
few minutes the troops were swarming over the fort, shooting and 
bayoneting mercilessly; very few Moros survived that slaughter under 
the rising moon. "A very severe, though well-deserved, punishment 
was administered," as Pershing put it, citing the fact that many of the 
fort's defenders were "notorious cattle thieves and murderers." 

A Manila Times correspondent wrote that "General Pershing was 
with the troops in the field during the entire time, and was within thirty 
feet of the last cotta when it was taken. . . . General Pershing has 
reason to be proud of the conduct of all the officers and men under 
his command, who engaged in this short but terrific taking of Bagsak. 
He was on the spot from beginning to end and knows what they were 
up against." 

A Congressional Medal of Honor was proposed for Pershing by 
Captain George C. Charlton of the Philippine Scouts, who witnessed 
his un-brigadierlike leadership of the assaulting forces. The general, 
however, wrote the War Department that he didn't think his actions on 
Bagsak were "such as to entitle me to be decorated with a Medal of 
Honor" and that "I went to that part of the line because my presence 
there was necessary." Pershing's refusal to be considered for the Medal 
of Honor went through channels and was buried in the War De- 
partment archives, coming to light only after World War I. 

"Probably there has been no fiercer battle since the American oc- 
cupation," Pershing wrote to the commanding general at Manila. He 
listed his own casualties as six killed and seven wounded. Not even 


an estimate of the Moros who were killed in the crater was given. 
Newspaper dispatches from Manila reported that Bagsak had been de- 
fended by 500 Moros and that most of them had been killed, either 
in rushes down the slopes or in the crater itself. Back home, however, 
newspapers gave wide circulation to an interview in San Francisco 
with John McLeod, a civilian employee of the Army Quartermaster 
Department who arrived in San Francisco from the Philippines six 
weeks after the battle. McLeod told reporters that 2000 Moros had 
been killed, among them women and children "mowed down by the 
scores" with rifles and machine guns. "The news of the fighting was 
strictly censored at Manila. . . . Three correspondents who managed 
to reach the seat of war were arrested on orders of General Pershing. 
... It was believed that every Moro that took part in that battle 
was killed." The reporters did not question McLeod on the source of 
his information, and his account, necessarily based on hearsay, was 
greatly exaggerated. Bagsak, however, was a stern and blood-spat- 
tered "punishment," as Pershing himself put it. It was also the last 
large-scale action fought hi the Moro country until the final with- 
drawal of American authority from the Philippines. 

By the time Pershing was ordered back to the States, sailing for 
San Francisco with his family on December 15, 1913, the Moro Prov- 
ince was so thoroughly pacified that he could be succeeded by a civilian 
governor. Cameron Forbes, the former governor general, considered 
that he "exercised the utmost patience in endeavoring to appeal to the 
reason of the Moro people and in avoiding a recourse to arms." That 
was one testimonial to his efforts, both corporal and diplomatic; an- 
other was that the Moros, on his departure, elevated him to the rank 
of sultan. It was one thing to disarm and pacify by force, but this was 
an honor, never given to another white man, which could not be 
wrested at gunpoint. It was the voluntary homage of the Moros, who 
felt that Pershing understood them and had treated them sternly but 
fairly, possibly also a sly recognition that he had a touch of the Moro 
temperament. Homeward with him went the commendation also of the 
new Governor General Francis Burton Harrison, "You have restored 
peace and disarmed the turbulent population, promoted civilization 
and education, and as rapidly as possible substituted civilian for mili- 
tary control of the districts. It is due to your efforts in that direction 
that I have been able with perfect confidence to nominate the Hon. 
Frank W. Carpenter, a civilian, as your successor." 

5. The Problem of Pancho Villa 

On the homeward voyage General Pershing received an eagerly sought 
assurance that he was being brought back to the States for an active 
command. Before leaving Manila, he had cabled the War Department 
an anxious inquiry concerning his next assignment. A message awaited 
him in Honolulu that he would be given a troop command rather than 
the desk in the General Staff's headquarters which he feared might be 
his lot. Pershing's acquaintance with staff work was not extensive, cer- 
tainly, but it was enough to give him a distaste for the planning and 
administering functions of the Army. He realized that modern armies 
could not be supplied, moved, or directed without a vast amount of 
staff preparation, of sweating over railroad schedules and warehouse 
inventories, and theorizing over maps and sand tables. But all the re- 
wards of his profession lay in command, in assuming responsibility, 
leading men in battle. His scramble up the parapet of Mount Bagsak 
indicated that he thought more like a cavalry captain than a brigadier 
general. He had to be in the thick of things. 

His new command was waiting for him only a rifleshot from where 
he and his family disembarked. It was the 8th Infantry Brigade, head- 
quartered at the Presidio. Trouble with Mexico was looming, the pos- 
sibility of intervention was growing, and the brigade was earmarked 
for action if the need arose. 

The need became apparent early in the spring of 1914, several 
months after Pershing took command of the 8th Brigade and estab- 
lished himself and his family in the rambling and ramshackle old house 
allotted the commanding officer at the Presidio. 

The situation in Mexico, stated as briefly as possible, was that of a 


series of revolutions, none of them entirely successful, which had left 
the country hi a state of anarchy. American capital, the most vocifer- 
ous spokesman of which was William Randolph Hearst with his medi- 
eval fief, cattle herds, and silver mines in northern Mexico, wanted the 
country pacified, by intervention if necessary. But the Mexicans, di- 
vided though they were among themselves, were politically united on 
one subject; they were as hostile to foreign intervention as they had 
been half a century before when Maximilian and Carlotta were briefly 
installed as rulers of the "empire" of Mexico in a similar attempt to 
protect foreign investments. Dictator Porfirio Diaz had been chased 
into exile, and a long struggle for supremacy began among his would-be 
successors. Madero, the pathetic idealist, was murdered and succeeded 
by Huerta, who was addicted to cocaine and treachery in almost equal 
portions. But Huerta, the corrupt general, could not command a mass 
following, nor could he summon up the military power to deal with 
Zapata, the peasant leader in the south, or with the rebels in the north 
Obregon, Carranza, and Villa. 

In March 1914 came the "incident" at Vera Cruz. A junior paymas- 
ter of the American naval squadron was jailed by Huerta's officers 
while buying supplies. The U.S. State Department demanded that, in 
addition to his release, the Huerta government order a thirteen-gun 
salute to the American flag. Huerta replied that he would do so if the 
American warships would tender a similar salute to the Mexican flag. 
Washington decided it had been insulted and that Huerta, having 
favored British oil interests, would have to go. Preceded by naval 
landing parties, the Army sent an occupying force of four regiments 
under General Funston to Vera Cruz. Huerta soon followed Diaz into 

While Funston was landing at Vera Cruz on April 23, the Regular 
Army was being mobilized for an invasion of Mexico from the north. 
The war fever which was to become virulent in Europe that summer 
of 1914 broke out in the United States several months earlier. The 
old cry of "On to Mexico City" was heard again. 

Among the forces being concentrated on the border were the 6th 
and 16th infantries under Pershing's command. They entrained from 
San Francisco, bound for El Paso, on April 25, two days after General 
Funston's landing at Vera Cruz. 

Pershing was uneasy over the departure for personal reasons. His 
wife had been injured in an automobile collision three days before he 


left, but the doctors at the Letterman Army Hospital assured him that 
her injuries were inconsequential and she would be released soon after 
his departure. 

With Pershing riding in an open touring car at their head, the two 
infantry regiments marched down Market Street to the Embarcadero 
with thousands of the citizenry cheering them on in a patriotic frenzy. 
The regimental bands blared a march step, and flags flew from every 
building. San Franciscans were confident that next thing they heard 
"their" regiments would be storming into Mexico City. The result was 
anticlimax. Pershing reported to Major General Tasker H. Bliss, com- 
manding the Southern Department, with his 1800 men; the prospects 
of intervention on a larger scale fizzled out as Carranza assumed power 
as the "Constitutionalist" president in Mexico City; and the Army 
settled down for a long wait on the border. It would be almost two 
years, in fact, before American troops crossed the international bound- 
ary into Mexico. 

The Army, having little to do but patrol the long border between 
Texas and California, decided to woo the Mexican rebel leaders in 
the north, Pancho Villa in particular. Villa, despite his claims to being 
"Dictator of Chihuahua," "Lion of the North," and liberator of the 
oppressed peons, was little more than a bandit chief whose character 
degenerated with each success, but his personality, his joviality and 
expansiveness, evidently held a certain amount of charm for Americans. 
He also had a sense of public relations. During his siege of Ciudad 
Juarez, across the river from El Paso, in 1911, he held off his final 
assault for several days after an American newspaperman told him the 
World Series was about to begin and his prospective victory would be 
pushed off the front pages. "We shall hold off the attack, boys, until 
the Americans finish their ball games," Villa told his staff. 

With the capture of Juarez and the loot from its banks and store- 
houses, with money extorted from American ranch and mine owners, 
Villa began living like a Chinese war lord. He bought five utterly use- 
less airplanes, Pierce-Arrow touring cars for himself and his favorite 
officers, and a luxuriously appointed special train with a drawing room, 
barber shop, salon car, and a flush toilet over which he never ceased 
marveling; at the same time he turned over to his brother Hippolito 
the bull ring and the whoring and gambling concessions in Juarez, 
Particularly swayed by Villa's claims that his great mission in life was 
breaking up the haciendas and distributing land to the peons was 


Major General Hugh L. Scott, who held the border command before 
becoming chief of staff on November 16, 1914. General Scott pre- 
sented Villa with a copy of Rules of Land Warfare and gave him 
fatherly lectures against killing women and children, forgetting that 
Villa was illiterate and had conquered northern Mexico by throwing 
the rule books out the window. 

Others were less impressed with Pancho's boisterous manner and 
beaming smile. Timothy G. Turner, an El Paso newspaperman who 
had been covering Mexican revolutions since Diaz's overthrow, thought 
General Obregon was the more promising man, "an intellectual type 
... a man who could sit down to a problem and master it." Villa, 
however, was "passionate, capricious. He lacked the intellectuality to 
understand anything complex." Still, it was Villa who captured the im- 
agination, who seemed to epitomize Mexico's heroic struggle to liberal- 
minded Americans and Mexicans alike. One who succumbed to this 
allure was the aged and disillusioned Ambrose Bierce who disappeared 
forever after crossing the border to join Villa and leaving a note read- 
ing, "If you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall 
and shot to rags please know that I think it a pretty good way to depart 
this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To 
be a Gringo in Mexicoah, that is euthanasia!" 

Pershing himself approached Villa more warily and skeptically, re- 
garding him as much the same type as the Moro chiefs he had subdued 
in the Philippines. He was making friends on both sides of the border, 
sounding out both Mexican and American opinion, trying to find out 
what motivated the various rebel leaders. Tim Turner, who discovered 
that he and Pershing "had a common failing for afternoon tea" and 
frequently shared a pot with the general at the Hotel Sheldon, recalled 
that Pershing "spoke Spanish and had a personality that the Mexicans 
liked, being what they called 'simpatico.' " 

Thus the comparatively parochial problems of the Mexican border 
were occupying him when his future colleagues of the Allied High 
Command were just beginning, in that late summer of 1914, to deal 
with a continental war. Western Europe had been at peace for two 
generations, since the Franco-Prussian War, when the statesmen and 
diplomats suddenly ceased to function and the huge armies of Russia, 
France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and finally Great Britain were 
mobilized. The pressures which built up over the years of peace and 
finally exploded into a continent-wide war were many and diverse; 


the question of "war guilt" was to be debated for a score of years, 
without either side conceding the truth there was plenty of it in all 

Part of the tension undoubtedly arose from Germany's rivalry with 
France and England for trade and colonies in Asia and Africa, from 
the Kaiser's determination to build a Navy as strong as England's, from 
the French determination to recover Alsace and Lorraine from Ger- 
many. In eastern Europe there was a secondary line-up of warring 
powers. Czarist Russia was eager to expand into the Balkans and to- 
ward the Bosporus. Austria-Hungary was determined to resist the 
Balkan thrust, and the crumbling Turkish Empire would summon up 
its last resources ^ to keep the Russians out of Constantinople. The 
Balkans had been in turmoil for years as various nations fought for 
freedom, fought each other, fought over the European remnants of the 
Turkish Empire. The series of small but vicious Balkan Wars, Austria- 
Hungary's seizure of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the blood feuds involving 
Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Rumania, and 
every other patchwork community of Balkan tribes, the inability of the 
Hapsburgs to match their fondness for the status quo with administra- 
tive efficiency and military power, and finally the larger powers' own 
selfish interests in that area, all provided enough inflammatory material 
for a dozen wars. 

The point of combustion was reached when England, France, and 
Russia decided to support Serbia, and Germany mobilized to back up 
Austria in that late summer of 1914. Then, as Sir Edward Grey said, 
the lamps went out in Europe, and nothing was ever the same again, 
particularly for those who were so eager to defend the "old order." 

... All that was far outside Pershing's province the summer of 
1914. He was exerting himself through diplomacy and calculated dis- 
plays of force to convince Obregon and Villa that it wouldn't pay to 
trifle with American lives and property below the border. Both rebel 
leaders crossed the border as his guests on several occasions. He came 
to the conclusion that Obregon was an "able and sincere patriot," but 
Villa "was of a different type. He was taciturn and restless. His eyes 
were shifty, his attitude one of suspicion, and his noticeably bulging 
coat indicated that he carried a brace of pistols in his hip pockets." 

Villa and one of his chief lieutenants, Fierro, were Pershing's guests 
at a brigade review at Fort Bliss, which was designed to open Villa's 
eyes to the disciplined power of the American forces. Apparently it 


did. "When he saw the American cavalry and light artillery do their 
stunts," Turner wrote, "Villa did not suppress his admiration and as- 
tonishment. He sat there rather bashfully, and was still more uncom- 
fortable when, after the review, he was taken to the post commandant's 
quarters where tea was served. Fierro was so flabbergasted that he for- 
got to remove his hat when he entered the house, and Villa said in a 
stage whisper, Take off your hat, you brute, you animal!' " 

Pershing was popular in El Paso society and dined out frequently, 
but he missed his family, still living in the commanding officer's quar- 
ters at the Presidio in San Francisco. When it appeared that he would 
be stationed on the border for some time, he began looking for a house 
but could find nothing suitable. Finally he told a friend, "I'm tired of 
living alone. I'm having my quarters fixed so my wife and children 
can join me." 

On the morning of August 27, 1915 just about a week before Mrs. 
Pershing and their four children planned to take a train for El Paso 
Pershing appeared early at his office in brigade headquarters at Fort 
Bliss. He began working on the papers accumulated overnight on his 
desk intelligence reports, dispatches from the regiments on border 

Shortly after his arrival, his orderly entered with a telegram. On that 
slip of yellow paper were contained the bare details of the tragedy 
which cut his life in two. 

Pershing glanced up from his desk and asked that the telegram be 
read to him. 

His orderly, knowing its contents, hesitated. 

"Go ahead," said Pershing impatiently. 

The orderly, trying to keep his voice steady, read out the news from 
San Francisco. Hours before, a fire had broken out in the old wooden 
structure housing his family at the Presidio. His wife and three daugh- 
ters, nine-year-old Helen, seven-year-old Anne, and three-year-old 
Margaret, all had been killed. Only his six-year-old son Warren had 
been saved. 

There was a long silence after the orderly finished reading the tele- 

Finally Pershing said, "Is that all? Is that everything?" 

His aides said that Pershing took this crushing blow without another 
word. Not a flicker of emotion crossed his face. Not a word or sound 
of grief. "Only those who knew him intimately realized the struggle 


that was taking place within him," the torment contained behind tight 
lips and frozen features. "For a time it was feared that he would lose 
his mind. Then once more he got complete mastery of himself." The 
price of that self-containment was marked on his character from then 
on; it isolated him from other men and contributed to the general feel- 
ing that he was a "cold fish" incapable of human emotions. 

Before he left for San Francisco, Pershing received a fuller account 
of the tragedy. The fire was spotted after midnight by sentries walking 
their posts as a column of smoke and flame burst through the roof 
of the two-story building. Apparently it started from a night light left 
burning in the children's room. Mrs. Pershing and her three daughters 
were suffocated in their sleep. The Negro butler had risked his life to 
force his way into Warren's room on the first floor and carry him to 
safety. Mrs. Warren O. Boswell, a visiting relative of Mrs. Pershing's, 
also managed to escape from a ground-floor room with her two chil- 
dren. The post fire department found the bodies of Mrs. Pershing and 
her daughters in rooms on the second floor after extinguishing the fire 
on the roof. 

It could hardly have comforted Pershing, but the San Francisco 
Chronicle, in a front-page editorial signed by its publisher, denounced 
the housing facilities allotted the officers at the Presidio. The Pershing 
quarters, said the editorial, were "a flimsy shack built forty years 
ago, destitute of modem safety appliances and sanitary improvements." 
The fact that two women and three children had been burned to death 
in three previous fires at the Presidio "should have aroused the govern- 
ment to the necessity of guarding against the horror which the last 
accident has brought it face to face with." Scant amends also were 
offered by the Army some years later: a bronze plaque surmounting a 
stone block which marks the site of the Pershing family's tragedy. 

On arrival in San Francisco, Pershing hurried out to the post hospital 
where his son was being kept. Doctors and nurses led him, in silence, 
to the room where six-year-old Warren waited. They closed the door 
on father and son just as he kneeled and took the towheaded little 
boy into his arms. 

Dry eyed and emotionless on the surface, Pershing accompanied the 
bodies of his wife and daughters to Cheyenne, where they were buried 
in the Warren family plot. He took his son to Lincoln, where his 
maiden sister, May, and his married sister, Mrs. D. M. Butler, took 
charge of the boy's upbringing for the next several years. 


He returned to his command on the border, where his officers noted 
the shocking imprint of the grief which Pershing would not permit him- 
self to display. He no longer looked younger than his years. His face 
was thinner, almost gaunt; his mouth was tightened to the grim line 
familiar later in World War I photographs, and his graying hair turned 
almost white during the several weeks following the tragedy. 

Pershing threw himself into his work, the only acceptable anodyne. 
The Mexican situation was beginning to boil over again, and, accord- 
ing to intelligence reports, Pancho Villa was being financed and goaded 
into anti- American activities by German agents. The German plan was 
to involve the United States in a war on its southern border and keep it 
from joining the Allies, as was to be proved by the intercepted Zimmer- 
man telegram. 

He also immersed himself in a study of the war in Europe, based on 
the newspaper accounts and reports of its observers forwarded by the 
War Department. If America entered the war, it seemed likely that 
Pershing would command one of the first divisions to go over, and he 
wanted to be prepared. By the fall of 1915 the Allies were fighting 
with their backs to the wall against the Austro-German armies on both 
fronts. The huge Russian armies had been rolled back along the line 
stretching from the Baltic coast to the Carpathians, and it was ap- 
parent that they could offer little more resistance than their flesh and 
bone so long as they were led with the most brutal incompetence, sup- 
plied so inadequately, and asked to lay down their lives for a distant 
and bewildered Czar and his corrupt court. 

The French and British armies were locked in a stalemate with the 
Germans from the North Sea to the Swiss border, draining the lifeblood 
of their nations in futile but repeated offensives which pitted their in- 
fantry against the scythelike sweeps of the German machine guns and 
the pounding of heavy artillery, burrowing into trenches flooded by the 
autumnal rains but planning more massive efforts at breaking the dead- 
lock. The only inspiring event of the war thus far, from the Allied 
standpoint, was halting the German drive on Paris at the Marne, which 
was due as much to a breakdown in the enemy's staff work and com- 
mand as to the valiant French counterattacks. 

As the new year began, Pershing was occupied with more intimate 
concerns than the European war. Villa and his steeple-hatted guerrilla 
army were on the move in Chihuahua. In January of 1915, Villa had 
signed an agreement with the United States, as representative of the 


Mexican Government, to halt the brigandage in northern Mexico. Suc- 
ceeding events, however, gave Villa more than a little cause for a sense 
of grievance against the American Government. President Wilson had 
reversed policy and granted recognition to the "Constitutionalist" 
government of General Carranza, although Villa until then had been 
fairly co-operative and had the special favor of the United States Army, 
particularly its chief of staff, General Hugh L. Scott. Scott wrote in 
his memoirs: "The recognition of Carranza had the effect of solidify- 
ing the power of the man who had rewarded us with kicks on every 
occasion, and of making an outlaw of the man who had helped us. ... 
After Villa had given up millions of dollars at the request of the State 
Department [in expropriated American property] . . . they made him 
an outlaw. He was* a wild man and could not be expected to know the 
difference between the duties of the State and War Departments/' 

In September of 1915, President Wilson handed the Carranzistas 
another precious boon by permitting them to transfer their troops by 
rail across American territory and fall upon Villa at Agua Prieta, op- 
posite Douglas, Arizona. The Agua Prieta garrison then counterat- 
tacked, driving the Villistas away in disorder and reducing Villa's 
forces from 10,000 to 1500 men. After that, Villa swore vengeance 
on the United States. There was so much shooting along the interna- 
tional boundary that American border-town hotels advertised them- 
selves as "bullet-proof," and American-owned ranches and mines were 
at the mercy of roving bandit gangs, not all of them Villista. On Jan- 
uary 10, 1916, nineteen Americans were taken from a train near Santa 
Isabel, Chihuahua, and shot to death. Villa was instantly held respon- 
sible for the outrage, but claimed that it had been committed by a 
renegade former lieutenant. 

Four days after the Santa Isabel incident, Pershing was forced to 
send troops into El Paso when the Anglo-Saxon populace rioted and 
attacked the Mexican quarters of the city. Martial law was proclaimed 
after "the arrival here of the mutilated bodies of the Americans" killed 
at Santa Isabel, as the Associated Press reported, "further inflamed the 

Early in March brigade headquarters received rather disturbing re- 
ports indicating that Villa might be contemplating a raid across the 
border. The Mexican commandant at Juarez tipped off the American 
intelligence that his agents had learned Villa was planning a border 
raid within a few days. On March 7 came reports that Villa's army, 


numbering between 1000 and 1500 men, was camped on the Casas 
Grandes River south of Columbus, New Mexico, a desolate little town 
(population 400-500) two miles north of the international bound- 

Columbus, the headquarters of the 13th Cavalry, Colonel Henry J. 
Slocum commanding, would make a tempting target with its banks, 
storehouses, military supplies, and a battery of machine guns which 
Villa especially wanted to lay hands on. The 13th Cavalry had gar- 
risoned the town since 191 1 and had been alerted many times-perhaps 
too many times by warnings that the Mexicans were about to attack. 
It kept the border watch in a routine way, patrolling at irregular in- 
tervals the barbed-wire fence which represented the international 
boundary. Three troops and the machine-gun unit garrisoned Colum- 
bus; two troops were stationed at Gibson's Ranch, fourteen miles west 
of Columbus, and one troop was posted at the border gate, where the 
United States Customs station was located. 

The town itself, lying out on the desert fifty miles west of El Paso, 
was a dreary, sun-and-sand-blasted place afflicted with windstorms 
and rattlesnakes; neither electricity nor telephone service had reached 
it as yet, and its only communications with the outside world were the 
telegraph and the El Paso & Southwestern Railroad, from whose west- 
bound Drunkards Special every midnight tumbled men who had been 
celebrating brief furloughs in El Paso. 

On the evening of March 7 a Mexican cowhand employed by an 
American ranch rode into Columbus to report that he and two Ameri- 
can riders had sighted Villa's army camped at Casas Grandes. The 
Mexicans escaped, but the two Americans, he said, were captured and 
killed by the Villistas earlier that day. Colonel Slocum was prohibited 
from reconnoitering across the border so he persuaded the Mexican to 
return the next day to the Casas Grandes and report on the Villistas' 
movements. The Mexican found that Villa's main body had proceeded 
east toward Guzman, while a smaller force of a hundred horsemen 
split off northward in the direction of Palomas. Colonel Slocum asked 
the commandant of the Carranza garrison at Palomas to investigate 
the reports of Villa's movements, but he refused. The pro-Villa senti- 
ment of the Palomas garrison was evident. Colonel Slocum, however, 
recalled Troop K from the border gate, believing that Villa had prob- 
ably turned away from the border. 

The 13th Cavalry bedded down the night of March 8 without 


taking any special precautions against a predawn attack. Lieutenant 
James P. Castleman took over as officer of the day at regimental 
headquarters. Sentries walked their posts around the barracks, sta- 
bles, mess shacks, and guard tent at the camp south of the railroad 
tracks. The business and residential sections of Columbus were north 
of the tracks. Soon after night fell the streets were dark and silent- 
Colonel Slocum's requisition for oil lamps to light the streets had 
been denied except for patches of light outside the several saloons 
and hotels. It was a moonless night. 

At midnight everything was so peaceful around the post that Lieu- 
tenant Castleman, the sole officer in charge, strolled over to the rail- 
road station to meet the Drunkards Special and welcome back the 
regimental polo team, which had played in the brigade matches at 
El Paso. Among the returning players was Lieutenant John P. Lucas, 
who commanded the machine-gun troop. Both Castleman and Lucas 
were shortly to spend the busiest several hours of their lives. 

In the next few hours, while town and camp slept, Villa's thousand 
or more horsemen, many of them savage Yaquis from the mountains 
of Sonora, moved across the border in small bands and took positions 
for a well-planned attack. On this side of the border they organized 
themselves into two columns, one of which was to attack from the 
southeast, the other from the southwest. 

The surprise attack began at 4:15 A.M., March 9, with the killing 
of two sentries in the regimental headquarters area. On hearing the 
shots, Lieutenant Castleman drew his pistol and rushed out of the 
officer of the day's shack. Just outside the door a Villista blazed away 
at him with a 30-30 Winchester and knocked off his hat, to which 
Castleman replied by shooting him dead. The officer of the day ran 
across the parade ground under heavy fire and routed out the guard 
detail at the guardhouse, then Troop F in its barracks, and drove the 
Mexicans across the railroad tracks. Other troops, though their officers 
were quartered in town and unable to reach them, organized them- 
selves to join in the fight. The whole business section of the town 
erupted in gunfire. Mexican horsemen rode up and down the streets, 
firing into houses and hurling torches into business establishments. 
The Villistas unwisely set fire to the Commercial Hotel, the flames from 
which Jit up the section and made easy targets for the American 

In his quarters across the tracks, Lieutenant Lucas was awakened 


by the clatter of horse's hoofs, looked out the window, and glimpsed 
the tall sombrero of a Mexican rider. Barefooted and heedless of 
sand burrs, he hastened to the camp, eluding the Villistas and making 
his way to the barracks occupied by his machine-gun troop. Lucas 
and his gunners hurried to the guard tent where the machine guns were 
kept. The first gun they set up was an old Benet-Mercier of French 
manufacture, "a very complicated weapon, which required perfect 
conditions that it might function. The conditions not being perfect the 
gun jammed after a few rounds, and we left it in position and went 
after another. ... By this time the remainder of the troop had arrived 
and I stationed the guns in what I considered to be strategic positions 
to fire on the Mexicans in town. Also about thirty men with rifles had 
shown up, and these I deployed along the railroad track to fire on 
the same target." The burning hotel in the background "lit up the 
terrain so that we were able to see our targets very plainly." 

Just as dawn broke, Villa's trumpeters sounded the retreat. The 
streets were littered with the dead, mostly Mexican, and the center of 
town was burned out. Nineteen Mexican corpses were found in front 
of the Columbus Bank. Behind them the fleeing Villistas left 215 dead; 
the corpses were later stacked in a huge pile out on the desert, soaked 
with oil, and burned. The American losses, thanks to the Mexicans' 
poor marksmanship, were amazingly small: seven soldiers killed and 
eight wounded, eight civilians killed and five wounded. 

The regiment's senior officers, quartered hi town, were unable to 
join their troops until the Mexicans had been driven off. Without 
waiting for authorization from higher headquarters, Colonel Slocum 
decided to drive the Villistas south of the border. Though greatly out- 
numbered, the American cavalrymen mounted up and began the pur- 
suit. Major Frank Tompkins, with only twenty-nine troopers of 
Troop H under his command, rode for the border fence at a gallop 
and found Villa's rear guard holding a hill 300 yards south of the 
international boundary. They charged with pistols and drove the Vil- 
listas back toward their slowly retreating main body. Lieutenant Cas- 
tlernan with Troop F and Captain Stedje with Troop G, from the post 
at the border gate, joined Major Tompkins in pressing the counter- 

Fighting mad over having been taken by surprise, the Americans 
attacked the Mexican rear guard twice more, then flanked the main 
body, and poured a heavy fire into it. Villa's retreat turned into a rout. 


Without food or water, the Americans chased the Villistas fifteen 
miles south of the border, killing an estimated seventy-five to 100 
more. Then, only because their horses were stumbling with thirst and 
fatigue, they turned back to Columbus. 

The American reaction to Villa's raid was swift, although President 
Wilson and his new Secretary of War Newton D. Baker had often 
expressed pacifist sentiments in the past. On March 10, the day after 
the raid, the War Department telegraphed General Funston, now 
commanding the Southern Department: "President has directed that 
an armed force be sent into Mexico with the sole object of capturing 
Villa and preventing any further raids by his bands, and with scrupu- 
lous regard for sovereignty of Mexico." 

Organization of a punitive expedition began the moment that au- 
thorization was received at General Funston's headquarters at San 

Who was to command it? Secretary of War Baker asked that ques- 
tion of the chief of staff, General Scott, and his deputy, General 

"Pershing," both replied in unison. 

Baker then wired General Funston, "You will promptly organize 
an adequate military force of troops from your department under the 
command of Brigadier General John J. Pershing, and will direct him 
to proceed promptly across the border in pursuit of the Mexican band 
which attacked the town of Columbus, New Mexico, and the troops 
there on the ninth instant. These troops will be withdrawn to Ameri- 
can territory as soon as the defacto government of Mexico is able to 
relieve them of this work. In any event the work of these troops will 
be regarded as finished as soon as Villa's band or bands are known to 
be broken up." 

Only three days after the expedition was ordered, General Bliss 
saw that chasing Villa would be more than a simple man hunt, and 
that Pershing's task would be a complicated one. In a memorandum 
to the Secretary of War, the deputy chief of staff wrote, "They [Per- 
shing and his punitive columns] will soon be beyond assured com- 
munication with their home government. They will be in hostile 
country surrounded by enemies, and they will do as soldiers in the 
circumstances must do. If they think that Villa and his band are in a 
certain town and refuse to surrender they must attack that town. If 
Villa retreats they must follow him; if he breaks up into small bands 


our people must more or less scatter in order to follow him." Bliss's 
view, it developed, was remarkably clear-sighted. 

The chances for success of the Mexican punitive expedition, no 
matter what expectations had been raised among the American peo- 
ple, were slim at the outset. Among the handicaps under which Per- 
shing would labor in the coming months were ( 1 ) the attitude of the 
Carranza government, which was opposed to intervention and would 
prove almost as troublesome as Villa himself; (2) the fact that the 
United States agreed not to use the railroads of northern Mexico to 
supply its columns; (3) the sympathy of the Mexicans for Villa; (4) 
the necessity of hunting down Villa, the national hero, without in- 
volving the United States in a war with Mexico; (5) the rugged coun- 
try in which the American forces would have to operate; (6) the 
unpreparedness of the United States Army for even such a limited 
campaign below the border; (7) the inadequacy of communications 
and methods of supplying the troops in the field and there were 
others. Everything had to be improvised on the spot and at the mo- 
ment. Exactly a week after the Columbus raid, Pershing had pushed 
his cavalry regiments across the border and sent them southward by 
forced marches. 

Robert Lee Bullard, future army commander under Pershing, who 
was serving on the Texas border, commented that "all military men 
know that under the orders he [Pershing] received he had as much 
chance to get Villa as to find a needle in a haystack. He must have 
known this before he started, yet nowhere does he seem to have broken 
over the restraining conditions of these orders." 

Pershing's willingness to accept the directives of the government 
and never to yield to the glory-hunting temptation made him by far 
the most reliable choice to lead the punitive force. "He will obey his 
superiors absolutely," Bullard wrote in accurate prophecy. "Had the 
President searched the whole army over to find a commander of this 
expedition he could probably have found no other who would be 
ready so absolutely to obey his instructions and comply with his wishes 
in every respect." The need for absolute obedience to the govern- 
ment's designs in Mexico was evident: the United States couldn't af- 
ford to become involved in a war deep in Mexico at a time when it 
appeared more and more likely that we would enter the struggle 
against the Central Powers. Catching Villa would satisfy the national 
honor but it wasn't a matter of historical necessity. 


Pershing was required to salvage a situation manufactured in 
Washington by inept diplomacy, which had antagonized Villa with- 
out winning the support of the Carranza government. 

His immediate superior, General Funston, didn't envy him the field 
command. "John's up against a lot," Funston told a newspaperman 
on the veranda of a San Antonio hotel. It was the prime understatement 
of the year. 






2 Q 

Brigadier and family man. Pershing and his wife and three oldest chil- 
dren, Helen, Anne, and Warren, outside their quarters at Zamboango, 

Pershing in the Philippines. Second from the left, at the BOQ, Zam- 
boango, on Mindanao. WIDE WORLD PHOTOS 

Boyhood home in Laclede. BROWN BROTHERS 

Officers of the 6th Cavalry after Wounded Knee. Lieutenant Pershing 
is second from the right, in the second row, WIDE WORLD PHOTOS 

Pershing and Joffre. The A.E.F. commander entertains the hero of 
the Marne, now on the shelf, at Chaumont. BROWN BROTHERS 

An undying friendship. Petain and Pershing conferring just before the 
western front exploded in the spring of 1918. BROWN BROTHERS 

Where's Pancho? A frustrated Pershing, his face lined and weary, reads 
about the expedition as his columns fan out searching for the elusive 
guerrilla leader. THE BETTMAN ARCHIVE 

Commanding the punitive force. Pershing, right, and his staff beside 
the Dodge touring car, flying its one-star flag, which carried them deep 
into Mexico on the heels of the cavalry columns. THE BETTMAN ARCHIVE 

Obregon Villa Pershing. Just a few months before Pershing 
began hunting down Pancho, over Obregon's ultimate objections. 


For publicity purposes only. Pershing and aides ford the Santa Maria 
across the Mexican border for a Signal Corps photographer. Actually 
he traveled south by automobile. But it made a nice picture. BROWN 


Allies and adversaries. Generalissimo Foch and the sometimes diffi- 
cult commander of his right wing on the western front. BROWN BROTHERS 

Architects of victory. General Pershing, Marshal Foch, and Field 
Marshal Haig, after the war was won. BROWN BROTHERS 

6. The Empty Cage for Pancho Villa 

A military career is made of many things. Courage, character, and 
intelligence may be essential, but they don't necessarily bring a man 
to high command. There were undoubtedly others among the hun- 
dreds of career officers in the United States Army who could have 
handled the vast responsibilities which fell to John J. Pershing's lot; 
several may well have done better, given the same opportunities. But 
Pershing had fortune on his side every step of the way in his profes- 
sional, if not his personal, life. He was always in the right place when 
the opportunity for achievement arose. Being in command at El Paso, 
fifty miles from the scene of the Columbus raid, made him the logical 
choice to lead the punitive expedition, all things being equal; if Villa 
had struck at some point along the Texas border, another officer 
might well have led the cavalry columns south. The death of a su- 
perior officer a year later cleared the way, inadvertently, of course, 
for a still greater opportunity. 

It didn't hurt, either, that highly placed and well-dispositioned 
friends in Washington always stood ready to protect him against any 
intrigues that might threaten to unseat him. His father-in-law was still 
a power in the Senate, although a Democratic Administration had 
moved into the White House. And the chief of staff, General Scott, 
who had dealt with the Indians and the Moros in much the same 
manner as Pershing, was naturally sympathetic. General Scott, in fact, 
may well have saved Pershing from being permanently pigeonholed 
shortly after he began his pursuit of Villa. 

Scott recalled in his memoirs that while Pershing was campaigning 
south of the border someone reported to President Wilson that "Per- 


shing was disloyal to the administration in his remarks about the 
President's policies." He didn't name the talebearer, and perhaps he 
didn't know it; that kind of Byzantine maneuvering is generally con- 
ducted with guarantees of anonymity. Secretary of War Baker re- 
ferred the matter to Scott, who asked that nothing be done until he 
carried out his own investigation. Baker, knowing Scott's reputation 
for straight dealing and better still his brother's friendship with the 
President, agreed to leave the matter in Scott's hands. The chief of 
staff said he wrote Pershing immediately, "informing him that his ene- 
mies were working against him." 

General Scott said he received a "frank manly letter" from Per- 
shing denying the charge of disloyalty, which was passed along to 
Baker and Wilson. The President was "satisfied," Scott said, that Per- 
shing was perfectly loyal. 

An ill-disposed chief of staff could have handled the matter differ- 
ently, allowing the distant field commander to remain under suspicion. 
Pershing's career then would have come to a standstill, Scott believed. 
"Knowing Wilson as I did I am satisfied that if this matter had not 
been cleared up, Pershing would never have received the supreme 
command in France. . . ." 

Luck was with Pershing, too, in his Mexican operations luck, pa- 
tience, and a sense of discretion nurtured during years of walking the 
tightrope of a military career, of knowing when to show initiative 
and when to obey the letter of his orders. One bad break could have 
ruined him. One flare-up of temper at a crucial moment could have 
wrecked the preventative purposes of the expedition. Fortunately he 
thoroughly understood the main objective, which was to stay out of 
war with Mexico . . . and if possible, and only secondarily, to capture 
Villa. Just as fortunately he managed to impress his subordinates that 
it was necessary to turn aside from opportunities for purely military 

Hastily improvised, mounted within a week after the Columbus 
raid, the campaign at least had the virtue of simplicity in design. Its 
objective was to trap Villa between two fast-moving cavalry columns. 
One column headed south from Culberson's Ranch, the other farther 
east from Columbus, and both moved on roughly parallel lines. The 
best information available to the Americans indicated that Villa was 
holed up in the mountains above Guerrero. Pershing hoped that his 


cavalry columns would be able to strike fast enough to keep him 
pinned down there. 

The east column included the 13th Cavalry, still smarting from the 
surprise attack on Columbus, with a congressional committee investi- 
gating the conduct of its officers; the 6th Infantry, the 16th Infantry, 
and Battery C of the 6th Field Artillery. In the west column, which 
Pershing accompanied, were the 7th Cavalry, 10th Cavalry (the 
Negro regiment with which he had once served), and Battery B of the 
6th Field Artillery. The infantry accompanying the columns, of 
course, slogged away well to the rear of the mounted regiments. Later 
the columns were reinforced by other regiments of cavalry and in- 
fantry, other field artillery units, and hundreds of supporting troops to 
maintain the supply and communications lines. 

Many of the young officers attached to the expedition, most of them 
just out of West Point, acquired fame in World War II, including 
three first lieutenants: George S. Patton, Jr., 8th Cavalry, who was 
Pershing's aide; Courtney H. Hodges, and William H. Simpson, both 
6th Infantry, who were also to command armies in France. Others 
who later rose to military prominence were Captain Eben J. Swift, Jr., 
llth Cavalry; First Lieutenant Kenyon A. Joyce, 6th Cavalry; Second 
Lieutenant Ralph P. Cousins, 6th Cavalry; Captain Lesley J. McNair, 
4th Field Artillery; Captain U. S. Grant, III, 2nd battalion of Engi- 
neers; First Lieutenant Brehon B. Somervell, 2nd battalion of Engi- 
neers; and three young daredevils who flew with the First Aero 
Squadron Carl Spaatz, Millard F. Harmon, and Ralph Royce. 

The polo-playing young Lieutenant Patton attached himself to the 
expedition only through the exercise of a stubbornness equal to Per- 
shing's. A brash, ruddy-faced fellow with a thirst for combat, he 
camped in the general's front hall for two days and proclaimed a state 
of siege. Every time Pershing entered or left his quarters, Patton leaped 
up from his chair and renewed his pleas to be taken along. Each time 
Pershing bluntly said "no." On the evening of the second day, Per- 
shing wearied of brushing him aside and agreed to take him along. 
Patton was appointed headquarters commandant and aide-de-camp, 
and, haring off on adventures of his own, soon exhibited the tenden- 
cies which came to full flower when he loosed the armored forces 
across France in 1944. 

Except for a few innovations on the ground and in the sky, the 
Mexican punitive force closely resembled the expedition which Gen- 


eral Miles sent across the border thirty years before in search of Ge- 
ronimo. The troopers wore khaki instead of the Old Army blue and 
were armed with .45 pistols instead of carbines and sabers; the com- 
manding general traveled mostly by automobile, instead of horseback, 
and occasionally a rickety biplane of the First Aero Squadron circled 
overhead, but the real work of the expedition was accomplished by 
men and horses struggling over deserts and mountains, guarding 
against treachery and ambush, just as during the campaign of 1886. 
Something of the Old West stirred back to life as the columns moved 
south. As Colonel Toulmin wrote, "The Pershing Expedition placed 
its reliance on guides, cowmen of the ranges, halfbreeds, ranch bosses, 
adventurers who had fought either against or with Villa, gunfighters, 
gamblers the remnants of the old Indian frontier. This expedition re- 
vived old ghostslife came to the border once more. Once again the 
great southwest was alive with the United States army in pursuit of 
ruffian bands." 

A surviving unit of Apache Scouts, many of whom had guided the 
expedition against Geronimo and were now elderly but spry and en- 
thusiastic, were in the vanguard of the expedition. The most reliable 
of the lot was First Sergeant Chicken, who was serving his seventh 
hitch with the Army. Equally diligent were Sergeant Chow Big and 
his brother Corporal Monotolth. The aged Hell Yet-Suey, hereditary 
chief of the White Mountain Apaches, was especially good at interro- 
gating prisoners; the Mexicans almost died of fright when he ap- 
proached them, wearing dust goggles, shaking his shoulder-length hair, 
and baring his teeth. Otherwise, Colonel Toulmin recalled, "Hell Yet- 
Suey's favorite occupation was to have his picture taken with a cap- 
tured belt taken from a Villista, his rifle and his trusty automatic, 
but when there was work to be done, Hell Yet-Suey was absent." 
Charley Shipp came along hi his capacity of tribal judge, but some- 
times overindulged in tequila or aguardiente and had to be thrown 
into the nearest available guardhouse. Also among the veterans of the 
Geronimo campaign were Corporals Big Sharley and B-25. 

General Pershing followed his columns hi something less than the 
style and dignity of a commanding general. He wore a campaign hat, 
boots and britches, a khaki shirt and tie, with a .45 automatic pistol 
bolstered on his hip. The various newspaper and Signal Corps photo- 
graphs taken of him during the campaign show a lean, fit, sunburned 
brigadier conferring with his officers out on the desert floor or in a 


foothill camp; one of the best caught him at the head of a group of 
horsemen crossing the turbulent ford of the Santa Maria River at the 
outset of the campaign. Mostly, however, he traveled in a sturdy 
Dodge touring car whose only protection against the chill night winds 
of the desert was isinglass curtains which could be snapped on the 
sides. His headquarters group was tiny, no staff officers, none of the 
comforts modern generals were growing accustomed to. It consisted 
of his aide, Lieutenant Patton; his cook, a Negro named Booker; and 
four enlisted men who made up the headquarters guard detail the 
whole outfit traveling in four Dodges. Pershing had limited his officers 
to fifty pounds of personal baggage, and himself brought along only 
forty-eight pounds. Booker had only GI rations corn meal, coffee, 
canned beef, and hardtack to work with. Trailing along hi the wake 
of the four Dodges were a wheezing Model T Ford, with correspond- 
ents Robert Dunn of the New York Tribune and Floyd Gibbons of 
the Chicago Tribune aboard, and a Hudson touring car carrying the 
Associated Press contingent, which broke down with a smashed axle 
eight miles south of the border. 

For days Pershing was out of touch with his advancing troops. The 
Signal Corps strung wires south as rapidly as possible, but telegraphic 
communications often broke down. The few field radios available had 
a radius of only twenty-five miles. With more hope than faith, Per- 
shing turned to the First Aero Squadron, which had been ordered to 
the border from San Antonio, to maintain contact with his forces 
through courier planes. The expedition was given "eight of the thir- 
teen antiquated tactical planes which constituted our all in aviation," 
he wrote. Within a month six of the old biplanes had cracked up and 
the other two were out of commission. "While there were many hair- 
breadth escapes in Mexico," he added, "fortunately all our fliers were 
spared to form the nucleus of our World War aviation corps, in 
which they all served with distinction." Any sort of aircraft would 
have been invaluable for reconnaissance in that country, but the 
squadron had to be used as a messenger service so long as it was 

That first tentative use of military aviation must have discouraged 
even its enthusiasts, as the initial report of its operations indicated. 
On the flight to Casas Grandes, across the border, "one of the planes 
was compelled to return to Columbus, due to motor trouble. Darkness 
overtook the other seven planes before they reached their destination, 


four of them being landed at Ascension, Mexico, and the three re- 
maining ones . . . at as many different points." One of the three was 
wrecked on landing near Pearson. Of the four planes which succeeded 
in reaching Casas Grandes, "misfortune overtook Lieutenant T. S. 
Bowen . . . who, while attempting to land Airplane No. 44, was 
caught in a whirlwind. The plane was completely wrecked. . . ." 
And so it went. 

At almost any point along his journey in the tracks of the west 
column, Pershing and his six-man headquarters, plus the two news- 
paper correspondents, might have been ambushed and wiped out. 
"Even the problem of eating was a difficult one and more than once 
the commander made up his mess from the hoarded supply of the 
newspaper correspondents who trailed with him," wrote Colonel Toul- 
min (With Pershing in Mexico). "With a canvas bucket for a wash- 
tub or a Mexican creek for a bathtub, sleeping in his clothes from 
day to day out in the open, acting as press censor for newspaper 
correspondents by correcting their copy on his knee, evading ambush 
and capture while travelling detached from his troops these were 
some of the qualifications of a headquarters commander with the 
Mexican Expedition. General Pershing took great chances with his 
personal safety, risking ambush and capture in his efforts to control 
the rapidly scattering forces in the pursuit." 

The country itself was an enemy, wrinkled and tawny as the skin 
of a dead lion, searingly hot by day, freezingly cold by night. Check- 
ered with alkali flats, the sand and mesquite steppe of Chihuahua 
stretched to the faint blur of the foothills rising into the Sierra Madre 
to the west. Three rivers laced the Chihuahuan plain, the Rio Casas 
Grandes, Rio Santa Maria, and Rio Carmen, which emptied into 
Lakes Guzman, Santa Maria, and Patos. The National Railway 
extended from Chihuahua City to El Paso, the Kansas City, Mexico 
& Orient from Chihuahua City to the Texas border at San Angelo 
but neither could be used under the agreement with the Carranza 
government. The few sizable towns on this vast, thirsty plain were 
also forbidden to American troops. 

Pershing and his rickety motorcade reached Colonia Dublan, which 
he designated as field headquarters for the expedition; here the two 
cavalry columns were united, then split up again into three pursuing 
columns. By March 27 he had pressed on to Casas Grandes, where an 
advance base was being established, refusing even to consider staying 


behind at headquarters. The Villa hunters had raised a scent, the 
7th Cavalry having flushed Pancho and about 500 of his followers 
in the vicinity of Guerrero, and Pershing wanted to be in at the kill. 

He was guardedly optimistic about the prospects of catching Villa. 
"Our troops seem to be pressing him," he told the correspondents 
accompanying him, "but Villa is no fool it may be that the cam- 
paign has just started." A red-shirted scout squatting nearby com- 
mented, "As I figure it, General, we've got Villa entirely surrounded 
on one side." 

Pershing hurried on southward, climbing into mountain snow- 
storms, finally regaining contact with his cavalry units at San Geronimo 
on March 30. "Great news," he told the correspondents after a dis- 
patch rider from Colonel Dodd's 7th Cavalry galloped into camp. 
Dodd's 400 troopers had engaged Villa at Guerrero, captured two 
machine guns, killed thirty ViUistas, and driven them away after a 
sharp fight. Villa was reported to have been wounded either in that 
engagement or in a skirmish with Carranzistas the night before, and 
was believed to be fleeing in a buggy, accompanied by only a handful 
of his followers. Villa's escape route, the field commanders reported, 
was boxed in by four different cavalry units scouring the mountains 
for him at Guerrero, Bachiniva, Providencia, and in the Santa Maria 
Valley. Colonel Dodd believed that he had cut the trail of Villa after 
a seventeen-hour, thirty-mile chase across the Continental Divide. 

But Villa made good his escape, and none of his countrymen were 
inclined to betray his hiding place. The American forces pushed on 
southward, eventually penetrating about 350 miles into Mexican ter- 

On April 1, at Bachiniva, Pershing and his headquarters caught up 
with Major Frank Tompkins and his squadron from the 13th Cavalry, 
the same officer who had driven Villa south from Columbus with a 
handful of troopers. 

That evening Pershing sent for Tompkins, and the two men sat 
before a campfire, discussing the situation. 

Finally, and rather unexpectedly, Pershing shot a question at the 
squadron commander, "Tompkins, where is Villa?" 

The major replied, "General, I don't know, but I would mighty 
well like to find out where he is." 

"Where would you go?" 


"I would head for Parral and would expect to cut his trail before 
reaching there." 

"Why?" Pershing demanded. 

"The history of Villa's bandit days shows that when hard pressed 
he invariably holes up in the mountains in the vicinity of Parral. He 
has friends in that region." 

Major Tompkins, seeing that Pershing was in a receptive mood, 
perhaps because the general was growing depressed over the fact that 
Villa had managed to elude all the traps set for him in more than 
two weeks of hard campaigning, and the longer the campaign lasted 
the fewer were its chances of success, ventured a project of his own. 
He suggested that his squadron, given a few mules for transport, could 
"move with greater speed and less effort" than some of the larger 
commands and that "its very size might tempt the Villistas to give 
battle when with a larger force they would avoid any such issues." 

"How many mules would you want?" Pershing asked. 

"Twelve," Tompkins replied. 

Pershing dropped the subject, but Tompkins had a hunch he would 
bring it up again after thinking it over. 

At noon the next day Pershing called him back. "Go find Villa 
wherever you think he is," he told Tompkins, without wasting a word. 
He gave Tompkins twelve pack mules from the llth Cavalry, which 
had just joined the expedition, in addition to 500 silver pesos, five 
days' rations, and his blessings. Less than two hours later Tompkins's 
squadron moved out. 

On April 4, Pershing passed along the telegraphed commendation 
of General Scott to his command, but added a characteristic footnote 
of his own: "All officers and enlisted men ... are cautioned against 
a feeling of overconfidence as to the final result to be achieved by 
this expedition." 

Pershing's reservations were well founded. The deeper they pene- 
trated into Mexico the more hostility they met from Villa sympathizers 
and Carranzistas alike, which could only have been expected. The 
same feeling would have resulted during the American Civil War, 
had a foreign power invaded the United States, no matter what ideal- 
istic and peacemaking intentions it expressed. 

Pershing, according to the New York Tribune correspondent Robert 
Dunn, realized that "Carranza would tie up with Villa. . . . And 
Pershing took it on the chin. He never got a break. I shaved in his 


mirror, watched him work, but no word, act, mien of his gave away 
the gyp." 

By this time other correspondents were catching up with the ad- 
vance elements of the punitive force, and word was getting back to 
the States that the results of the expedition thus far were anything 
but glorious. Among the newcomers was Damon Runyon, repre- 
senting the International News Service, who wrote that "Villa has dis- 
appeared in a way which, considering the relentlessness of the 
American pursuit, seems mysterious. The Americans have not encoun- 
tered any natives who will even admit they have seen Villa." 

Pershing stayed at Bachiniva, waiting to hear the results of Major 
Tompkins's probing operation toward Parral. Ten days later the news 
came and it wasn't good. Tompkins and his undersized squadron of 
two troops entered the town of Parral on April 12. The Carranzista 
commandant, General Lozano, angrily told Tompkins that the Ameri- 
cans had no right to be there. The populace echoed his sentiments 
by jeering at the Americans and hurling stones and refuse at them. 
Under orders from Tompkins, the troopers kept their guns bolstered 
and tried to ignore the demonstration. Tompkins agreed to take his 
command outside the town to a campsite selected by General Lozano. 

As Tompkins's troopers withdrew from the town, the pack train at 
their rear was fired upon. At the campsite near the railroad tracks the 
squadron took up defensive positions while several hundred Mexicans, 
many of them in uniform, massed on a hill to the south. General 
Lozano sent word that he could control neither his own soldiers nor 
the townspeople, and the Americans had better leave the vicinity. 
Major Tompkins, maintaining admirable discipline of himself and his 
men, decided to withdraw down the wagon road to Santa Cruz de Vil- 
legas. Still not satisfied, the Carranzistas tried to cut off the American 
retreat, upon which Tompkins detailed a rear guard of eight troopers 
to keep the Mexicans at a safe distance. He could have scattered them 
any time he wanted to, but recognized that bringing on a battle might 
have serious consequences for the whole expedition. Two Americans 
were killed and six wounded as they withdrew under the galling fire, 
but the tiny rear guard took a toll of forty to fifty Mexican lives as it 
protected the retreat. The Mexicans followed them for fifteen miles 
down the road before returning to Parral. 

Pershing, according to the correspondents accompanying him, was 
enraged when he heard the news of how Tompkins's squadron had 


been greeted at Parral. "Off flew the censor lid," Robert Dunn re- 
called. " 'Nothing, now, should be kept from the public. You can go 
the limit,' Pershing told us. And when I called the Parral trap 'an 
ambuscade,' Pershing leaned over my machine on the running board 
to write in 'treachery.' " 

Somewhat annoyed at Pershing's collaboration, Dunn wrote, 
"Army in full retreat to Salt Lake City. Pershing declares Allegheny 
Mountains must be defended at any cost." 

"How's this, sir?" he asked the general. 

Pershing was not amused, Dunn said, and "he only shook his head 
and walked away when just a chuckle, to my mind, would have made 
him a great man." 

Pershing, however, had every reason to be unappreciative of 
journalistic humor that day. A fuller report on the Parral affair showed 
that Tompkins and his command had been given assurances by Car- 
ranza officials that they would be welcome in the town and that they 
had thus been deliberately lured into a trap. 

Back in the States people were beginning to realize that what had 
been a pursuit after an outlaw and his band now was taking the form 
of an invasion. "Our fast and loose diplomacy with the Carranza 
government," observed the New York Tribune, "sent an undersized 
American force into Mexico without clear guarantees of friendly as- 
sistance." The War Department had no choice but to reinforce Per- 
shing with the 5th Cavalry, the 17th Infantry, and a battalion of the 
4th Field Artillery. 

Meanwhile, supplying the forces in the field was an increasingly 
serious problem. At Columbus, the rear base, food, equipment, and 
ammunition were piling up along the railroad tracks in mountainous 
stacks while the regiments south of the border were barely subsisting. 
The Quartermaster Department broke down completely; long freight 
trains arrived in Columbus with no bills of lading to indicate their 
contents, which had to be unloaded and sorted out at the trackside. 
But the real job was getting those supplies south of the border and 
over the straggling wagon roads and mountain trails along the supply 
line through Colonia Dublan, Casas Grandes, Galeana, Las Cruces, 
to the forward base at Namiquipa. Truck convoys of Jeffrey Quads 
and White one-and-a-half ton trucks were organized, along with mule 
trains, The truck companies were operated by American civilians un- 
der the supervision of army officers. Each convoy carried mechanics to 


repair breakdowns. After weeks of improvisation, trial and error, the 
convoy system began to work with a fair degree of efficiency. Mean- 
while, the First Aero Squadron had been reorganized and had re- 
ceived new equipment to operate a courier service between Columbus 
and Pershing's headquarters at Namiquipa. Washington was getting 
so worried about a deeper and more treacherous involvement in Mexi- 
can affairs, particularly after the Parral action, that it wanted to be 
able to keep in the closest communication with Pershing. 

During the last weeks of April, Pershing's columns had several 
sharp encounters with Villa's bands. The 7th Cavalry, at the Verde 
River and at Tomachie, killed a number of guerrillas in brief engage- 
ments. Since Villa's bands were now operating separately and in 
widely scattered places, Pershing decided to organize his forces into 
five different district commands a system similar to that used by the 
British Army in India to maintain control of its frontier provinces. He 
outlined his plan as follows in a general order issued April 29: 

"As the result of the arduous and persistent pursuit of Villa by vari- 
ous columns of this command, his forces have suffered losses of ap- 
proximately one hundred killed with unknown number wounded, and 
have been broken into smaller bands and scattered to different sections 
of the State of Chihuahua and elsewhere. The situation has changed 
to the extent that our troops no longer pursue a cohesive force of 
considerable size, but by surprise with small, swiftly moving detach- 
ments they must hunt down isolated bands, now under subordinate 
leaders, and operating over widely separated portions of the country. 
For this purpose the country to be covered for the present is accord- 
ingly divided into districts and apportioned to organizations available 
for such duty." 

Each district was to enlist agents and "establish as far as possible 
its own service of information." Pershing emphasized that "this ex- 
pedition is operating within the limits of a friendly nation, whose 
peaceful inhabitants should be treated with every consideration." But 
he also warned that "experience so far has taught, however, that our 
troops are always in more or less danger of being attacked, not only 
by hostile followers of Villa, but even by others who profess friend- 
ship, and precaution must be taken accordingly. In case of unpro- 
voked attack, the officer in command will, without hesitation, take the 
most vigorous measures at his disposal, to administer severe punish- 


ment to the offenders, bearing in mind that any other course is likely 
to be construed as a confession of weakness." 

The districts, their troops and commanders, were Namiquipa, 10th 
Cavalry, Major Evans; Guerrero, 7th Cavalry, Colonel Dodd; Bustil- 
los, 13th Cavalry, Colonel Slocum; Satevo, 5th Cavalry, Colonel 
Wilder; and San Borja, llth Cavalry, Colonel Lockett. 

Before the district plan could be put into effect, two officials of the 
town of Cusi came to Pershing's headquarters the evening of May 4 
with the news that two of Villa's lieutenants, Acosta and Dominguez, 
had appeared there with 120 of their followers. The citizens of Cusi 
wanted protection. A small Carranza garrison in the vicinity, they 
feared, wouldn't be able to give it to them. Pershing immediately dis- 
patched a provisional squadron of six mounted troops and a machine- 
gun troop under Major Robert L. Howze. 

The squadron arrived at Cusi shortly after midnight and learned 
that the Villistas had skirmished with the Carranzistas, then retired 
to the Ojos Azules Ranch for the night. The Carranzistas, regarding 
then* troubles with the Villista band as part of a family quarrel, de- 
clined to furnish guides to the ranch. It was six o'clock in the morning, 
May 5, before the American squadron found the place. 

The Apache Scouts, led by First Sergeant Chicken, fanned out 
ahead of the mounted troops and found Villistas swarming all around 
the ranch, many of them on top of the buildings, others behind a 
stone wall on a hilltop to the left. 

Howze's troopers charged in, firing their automatic pistols. "Troop 
A dashed through the ranch under fire from the men on the rooftop," 
wrote Lieutenant M. S. Williams, "and catching up with the last of the 
Mexicans commenced a pistol fight which lasted several minutes and 
resulted in the death of five or six of the enemy. The formation of 
the attack was with the troop in column of fours, deployment being 
impossible under the circumstances." The squadron chased the Vil- 
listas off the ranch after forty-four were killed, with no casualties 
among the Americans. "Damn fine fight!" was First Sergeant Chicken's 

In the border town of Juarez, Generals Scott and Funston were 
conferring with two of the leading Carranza generals, Obregon and 
Trevino, the former being Minister of War. Carranza's representatives 
demanded the withdrawal of Pershing's forces, claiming that Villa 
was dead and the purpose of the expedition had been achieved. Mean- 


while United States intelligence officers were trying to assess reports 
that the Carranza regime, encouraged by German agents, was prepar- 
ing to throw a large force between Pershing and the border to cut 
his line of communications and then destroy him. 

On May 8, Scott and Funston reported to Washington that they 
believed the Carranza proposals were "redolent with bad faith, that 
Mexicans are convinced that they are not able to carry out the agree- 
ment [to prevent border raids after the American withdrawal] even 
if ratified and they desire to keep the United States troops quiet until 
Mexican troops are in position to drive them out of Mexico by force/' 
The meeting at Juarez ended without an agreement. 

Washington feared that no matter how circumspectly Pershing and 
his troops conducted themselves they would become involved in an 
all-out war hundreds of miles from their nearest American bases. The 
remaining regiments of the Regular Army the 3rd, 14th, 21st, and 
30th Infantry and the 5th Field Artillery were sent to the border and 
the National Guards of Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico were fed- 
eralized to take over the job of patrolling the international boundary. 
Calling out the National Guard a total of 150,000 troops appar- 
ently convinced the Carranza government that it could not afford to 
attack Pershing, except in isolated actions and ambushes. 

A monumental sense of frustration pervaded Pershing's headquar- 
ters. All hopes of anything like a success had vanished. There was no 
chance of capturing Villa so long as every hot pursuit was blocked 
by Carranza's troops and no Mexican, however opposed to the Vil- 
listas' freebooting methods, dared to give information to the Ameri- 
cans without inviting reprisals from his neighbors. About all that 
Pershing's district intelligence officers could reap was a crop of wild 
rumors. An American newspaper took sarcastic note of the conflicting 
reports out of the Mexican interior: "Since General Pershing was sent 
out to capture him, Villa has been mortally wounded in the leg and 
died in a lonely cave. He was assassinated by one of his own band 
and his grave was identified by a Carranza follower who hoped for a 
suitable reward from President Wilson. Villa was likewise killed in a 
brawl at a ranch house where he was engaged in the gentle diversion 
of burning men and women at the stake. He was also shot on a wild 
ride and his body cremated. Yet through all these experiences which, 
it must be confessed, would have impaired the health of any ordinary 
man, Villa has not only retained the vital spark of life but has renewed 


his youth and strength. He seems all the better for his vacation, strenu- 
ous though it must have been." 

Pershing was so eager for definitive information about Villa and 
several of his leading henchmen still at large, particularly Generals 
Lopez and Cardenas, the latter the commander of Villa's bodyguard 
(the "Dorados"), that he yielded to the pleas of Lieutenant Patton 
to be turned loose on the hunt. Ostensibly on a corn-buying expedition, 
Patton, with an interpreter and six privates, drove to the village of 
Las Cienagas. General Cardenas's uncle owned a hacienda nearby. 
Patton and his men parked their Dodges a mile from the ranch house, 
approached stealthily on foot, and surrounded the place. On sighting 
the Americans, three horsemen rode out with their pistols blazing 
away. Patton, a crack shot, killed two of them one of whom was 
General Cardenas and his troopers accounted for the other one. A 
showman even then, Patton rode back to camp with the dead Mexi- 
cans draped over his fenders like slaughtered deer. After that, Patton 
wrote his wife, Pershing called him "The Bandit." Apparently Pershing 
was somewhat dismayed by his aide's zeal, for Patton wrote that 
"there is another bandit here that I wanted to take a try at, but he 
would not let me." 

As summer came to the plains and mountains of Chihuahua, Mexi- 
can and American tempers rose accordingly. Carranzista troops be- 
gan occupying positions along their railroads which threatened the 
American line of communications. In the vicinity of Ahumada, 10,000 
government troops were reported to have been concentrated for an 
attack, while thousands of others were said to be moving up from 
the south to Chihuahua City. Messages of Carranzista officers be- 
tween Ahumada and Casas Grandes were intercepted and found to 
bear out the suspicion that Carranza was about to declare war. 

Then General Trevino, commanding at Chihuahua City, tele- 
graphed Pershing that his government had ordered him to "prevent, 
by the use of arms, new invasions of my country by American forces 
and also to prevent the American forces that are in this State from 
moving to the south, east or west of the places they now occupy. . . . 
Your forces will be attacked by the Mexican forces if these indications 
are not heeded." 

Pershing fired back his answer the same day: "In reply you are 
informed that my Government has placed no such restrictions upon 
the movements of American forces. I shall therefore use my own 


judgment as to when and in what direction I shall move my forces in 
pursuit of bandits or in seeking information regarding bandits. If un- 
der these circumstances the Mexican forces attack any of my columns 
the responsibilities will lie with the Mexican government." 

The same day the Mexican commander at Casas Grandes warned 
Pershing not to move his forces in "any direction but north," to which 
Pershing replied, "I do not take orders except from my own govern- 

On the following day, June 17, Pershing ordered a reconnaissance 
of the Ahumada district to determine the strength of the Mexican 
troops concentrating there an operation which culminated in the most 
humiliating defeat suffered by the American forces during the cam- 

Troop C, under Captain Charles D. Boyd, and Troop K, under 
Captain Lewis S. Morey, both of the 10th Cavalry, were ordered to 
scout toward Ahumada without bringing on a battle with the Car- 
ranzista forces if it could be avoided. Reaching the outskirts of Car- 
rizal early June 20, they asked permission of the town commandant, 
General Gomez, to pass through on their way to Ahumada. Permis- 
sion was denied, but Captain Boyd, who was the senior of the two 
troop commanders, decided to force his way through the town, al- 
though Captain Morey protested that they would be exceeding their 
orders. The Americans, too, were heavily outnumbered, ninety troopers 
to 400 Carranzistas, and the latter had set up four machine guns and 
taken up a strong position in a deep irrigation ditch. 

When the Mexicans opened fire at long range (as the Americans 
claimed), Captain Boyd attacked, deploying his men in a dismounted 
skirmish line which was flanked by the Mexican positions and which 
had to cross more than 600 yards of flat sandy plain. Captain Morey's 
troop was supposed to support the attack but was pinned down by 
machine-gun fire and stayed where it was. Stupid as it was, Captain 
Boyd's attack at least had the virtue of enthusiasm; somehow his 
troopers kept going through the cross fire and the ripping swaths of the 
Mexican machine guns and drove the Carranzistas out of the ditch. 
The survivors of that charge, however, couldn't hold the position and 
had to retreat. Captain Boyd and seven others were killed, four were 
wounded, and eight were taken prisoner. With Captain Morey severely 
wounded, Troop K also withdrew in disorder, leaving four dead and 
fifteen prisoners. Pershing had to send out a detachment of the llth 


Cavalry to search the vicinity and bring in wounded and wandering 
survivors. The twenty-three prisoners and captured American equip- 
ment were later turned over at El Paso by the Carranza government 
under strong pressure from the State Department. 

The battle of Carrizal could have been the beginning of an all-out 
war. Instead, both sides backed away from stepping up hostilities, and 
the diplomats, who had performed so wretchedly to date, took over the 
job of finding a way out of the ridiculous dilemma. The United States 
had no alternative but to pull out, yet had to save face in the process. 
Mexico faced only a ruinous defeat if it tried to hasten that process 
unduly and forcibly. The two countries decided to appoint commis- 
sioners who would decide how the United States should evacuate. 

Meanwhile, Pershing concentrated his forces at Colonia Dubldn, far 
north of the deepest penetrations of his cavalry columns. His troops 
settled down in camps swept by sandstorms and poorly protected 
against the desert sun, and here they spent more than six months while 
the diplomats conducted their interminable discussions. Pershing kept 
his men busy with drills, maneuvers, and route marches, hi the pre- 
scribed but unimaginative military tradition. At any rate, they kept 
healthy, and the general was able to boast to an Associated Press cor- 
respondent that his punitive force had suffered only six deaths from 
disease in five months of campaigning, "a remarkable record for an 
expedition serving in this sort of country with nothing but field equip- 

Pershing kept himself busy and in good spirits and told correspond- 
ent Junius B. Wood that "roughing it has added ten years to my life." 
Wood wrote that Pershing, who was "easier to approach than many of 
his younger subordinates," had "smoked his first cigar in eight years," 
and "after that a box appeared in his tent and the general was smok- 
ing again." 

Correspondent Wood said Pershing was a tireless worker. "A light 
may burn in his tent until early morning, while he sits alone reading 
over reports and planning moves for future days. He may be up at day- 
light, walking through the sleeping camp and observing with his own 
eyes. He believes in keeping men busy officers and privates. 'Don't let 
them stagnate,' he says. If they get out of the habit of working they 
won't be in condition when they are needed. Idleness has ruined more 
armies than battles have.' " 

The newspaperman marveled at his grasp of detail. He mentioned 


a camp rumor that fifty horses had been killed by lightning. "That's 
not quite correct," Pershing said. "Five were killed, one stricken blind 
and twelve were stunned." 

He kept a tight hold on discipline as his regiments suffered through 
the summer, the fall, and finally the early winter months of 1916-17. 
"There was no chance to get away from each other and indulge in 
social relaxation away from the command, so necessary in a soldier's 
life," wrote Colonel Tompkins. "These men were uncomfortable all 
the time. In spite of their best efforts, they could not escape the dirt 
of the dust storms and the swarms of flies." A Christmas barbecue was 
planned but a storm blew up and "very few men ate at all for twenty- 
four hours." And as Colonel Tompkins noted, "The slogan 'Villa, dead 
or alive' was heard no more in Mexico." No doubt Pershing and most 
of his men would have echoed the sentiments of the New York Herald: 
"Through no fault of his own the Tershing punitive expedition' has 
become as much a farce from the American standpoint as it is an eye- 
sore to the Mexican people. Each day adds to the burden of its cost 
to the American people and to the ignominy of its position. General 
Pershing and his command should be recalled without further delay." 

Pershing's reputation, if anything, was sounder than ever, despite the 
disappointments and frustrations of the Mexican campaign. He was 
promoted to major general in September, and for once there were no 
public expressions of dismay or insinuations of political influence. "If 
there is any officer in the army who deserves the honor as much as 
Pershing," said the New York Sun, "we don't know who it is." The 
Chief of Staff, General Scott, believed that during the Mexican cam- 
paign Pershing "made a complete success in the accomplishment of his 
orders from the War Department." The judgment of history, too, has 
been almost entirely favorable. Colonel William A. Ganoe, in his 
authoritative History of the United States Army, wrote that "General 
Pershing's task through this whole campaign was, to speak mildly, awk- 
ward. He had to advance with little transportation through the most 
trying part of a tensely hostile country. He was allowed to attack one 
party but not the other, while both were equally antagonistic. He was 
in the position of the man who had to walk into a hungry leopard's 
cage with orders to beat Mr. Leopard, but under no conditions resist 
Mrs. Leopard with her cubs. With such a mission, who could have 
done better?" 

Negotiations finally were completed for the American evacuation, 


which began January 30, 1917. On February 5, the last American 
troops crossed the border to their own soil. Pershing himself was 
greeted in El Paso with a parade, a formal banquet, and the presenta- 
tion of a silver service. 

A New York Globe cartoon, which apparently amused Pershing and 
which he clipped for his scrapbook, saluted his return by showing the 
general hauling an empty cage back from Mexico which was labeled, 
"For Villa-Dead or Alive." 

As for Pancho Villa himself, that rambunctious fellow was stirring 
back to life even before the American withdrawal. General Pershing 
had reported, weeks before leaving Colonia Dublan, that Villa was 
"working south with approximately 1,000 men" and that he was req- 
uisitioning horses and cattle in the Santa Clara Valley, preparatory 
to new forays. (He never again appeared north of the United States 
boundary, however.) In mid-December of 1916, Villa granted an in- 
terview to T. F. Mortensen of the New York World in which he 
boasted about the American troops soon to be evacuated: "I will drive 
them out or make them fight, and after they are gone I will make a 
gap between the two countries so wide and deep that no Americans 
will ever be able to steal Mexican land, gold or oil." On the Columbus 
raid, he remarked, "I was awake; they were asleep and it took them 
too long to wake up." 

Whatever the depth of his antagonism toward the United States, 
whatever his troublemaking owed to the encouragement of German 
agents, Villa was quite unwittingly the benefactor of the American 
Army which had chased him through his own country like a skulking 
fugitive and killed many of his most trusted lieutenants. 

His raid on Columbus, and all that followed, as it turned out, was a 
signal blessing to this country, which two months after the withdrawal 
from Mexico entered the European war. It awakened the government 
and the people to the fact that the country was ill prepared for any 
sort of military action. The unexpected demands of the campaigning 
in Mexico indicated the need for mobilizing both our man power and 
our war industries and conditioned the public to the regimentation 
found necessary when the United States joined the Allies in Europe. 

The expedition into Chihuahua was a rigorous field test for almost 
the entire Regular Army as well as 150,000 National Guardsmen. With- 
out that experience the first divisions sent to France could hardly have 
performed as well as they did. Even more importantly the Mexican 


campaign exposed certain serious flaws in the structure of our military 
establishment. The response of volunteers for the Regular Army had 
been smaller than expected and pointed to the urgent necessity of a 
selective service program. 

General Scott reported that "recruiting is found so difficult that many 
of the [National Guard] units have not yet, over three months after 
the call, been raised to even minimum peace strength. . . . The failure 
should make the whole people realize that the volunteer muster does 
not and probably will not give us either the men we need for training 
in peace or for service in war. In my judgment the country will never 
be prepared for defense until we do as other great nations do that have 
large interests to guard, like Germany, Japan, and France, where 
everybody is ready and does perform military service in time of peace 
as he would pay any other tax." 

The chase after Villa, which eventually called upon the service of al- 
most 10,000 troops in the field against one guerrilla leader and less 
than a thousand of his followers, also demonstrated many flaws in the 
composition of the Regular Army. Cavalrymen armed with automatic 
pistols could no longer be considered the decisive arm in combat, as 
the war in Europe had shown even more effectively. The insufficiency 
of our Air Force, which was unable to keep more than a few planes 
aloft at any time during the campaign, was something to give pause to 
even the most earthbound generals. In the spring of 1916, while our 
few planes were carrying dispatches between Columbus and Nami- 
quipa, Great Britain's Royal Flying Corps was employing seventy 
squadrons on the western frontand the British, French, and German 
air forces were fighting immense battles in the sky, dropping bombs 
and strafing trenches, not carrying messages. That summer, while Ger- 
man machine guns were slaughtering thousands around the battered 
forts of Verdun and along the Somme, the American Table of Or- 
ganization and Equipment provided for exactly four machine guns 
to an infantry regiment, and most of them were obsolescent foreign 
models, no great improvement over the old Gatling guns. The field 
artillery hardly fired a shot in Mexico, which was just as well, con- 
sidering the shortage of guns and ammunition. European artillery, 
meanwhile, was being employed to the extent that a barrage on the 
western front cost millions of dollars. 

In the field of logistics, too, there were striking deficiencies. Obviously 
motor transport would have to replace the old mule trains which had 


followed American troops into battle for the preceding half century. 

The Quartermaster Department needed a good shaking up after pil- 
ing mountains of unsorted supplies at Columbus while the men in the 
field were close to starvation, and the railroads had creaked at the 
joints when called upon to move whole regiments to the border. 

Thanks to Pancho Villa and the dress rehearsal afforded by the 
Mexican campaign, some realization of American unreadiness was im- 
pressed upon the nation and its political and military leaders, not really 
in time to effect a state of preparedness but time enough to start the 
job of overhauling, reorganizing, and reinforcing. Without Villa, the 
American achievements overseas in 1917-18 would probably have 
been negligible. 

Just two weeks after the punitive expedition had cleared out of 
Mexico, on February 19, 1917, Major General Frederick Funston died 
of a heart attack, and General Pershing replaced him in command of 
the Southern Department. Had his heart been stronger, General Fun- 
ston, with his seniority, his fame as the captor of Aguinaldo, and his 
record as a fighting general, might well have taken command of the 
American Expeditionary Force to France. Fate removed him just in 
time to make way for Pershing. 



7. A "Token Force" for France 

If there was one word which distilled the hopes of the American people 
before World War I, it was "progress." Given time, they believed, their 
leaders would be able to abolish most of the ills which had afflicted 
mankind since its history was first recorded. Scientific progress would 
wipe out disease, economic progress would end poverty, progressing 
civilization would prevent war. It was the generation which regarded 
Pollyanna as the epitome of dramatic art, which esteemed Harold 
Bell Wright as a literary giant, which believed in the visibility and 
solidity of the American Dream. In that "age of innocence," people 
had an almost mystical faith in everything the Twentieth Century would 
bestow upon them. 

When the century was only fourteen years old, however, the assas- 
sination of the Austrian archduke was used as an excuse to settle old 
rivalries and all those comfortable Edwardian illusions, all that faith 
in progress, were shattered in one mighty flash of cannon lined up wheel 
to wheel across Europe. What had happened to the fervent pledges of 
statesmen that all disputes would be settled before the World Court at 
The Hague before they reached the flash point of war? They'd evapo- 
rated in the threats and recriminations, the demands and counterde- 
mands, the quick step of mobilization that briefly preceded the out- 
break of fighting from Flanders to the Masurian Lakes. Obviously the 
great powers had only been waiting for an excuse to settle their dif- 
ferences, not through arbitration, but by force and aggression. 

In America, at first, people were united in a desire for peace, for 
isolation from Europe's tribal frenzies. Let the war stay 3000 miles 
across the sea. America would devote herself to trying to end it, to feed 


the starving children, to plead the cause of humanity. The most idealis- 
tic of nations, with its most idealistic President in the White House, 
wanted nothing for itself but the satisfaction of bringing peace to the 

Then, slowly, American opinion began to veer in favor of the Allies. 
Not so much because of what they stood for, and certainly not because 
of their alliance with czarist Russia, but because of the image of Ger- 
man frightfulness which was becoming sharper and clearer with every 
passing month of the war. It was an image with many facets: the in- 
vasion of neutral Belgium and the partial destruction of Louvain in 
1914; the sinking of the Lusitania, the use of poison gas, and the ex- 
ecution of Nurse Edith Cavell in 1915; the furious power of the Ger- 
man attacks on Verdun in 1916; and the proclamation of unrestricted 
submarine warfare early in 1917. Partly through the cunning of Allied 
propaganda, the poilu and the tommy assumed an heroic aspect, while 
the German soldier became a brute, a Hun, a throwback to Genghis 
Khan. Less and less credence was placed in the clamor of the Hearst 
press that efforts were being made to suck the United States into the war 
to protect the French and British interests of J. P. Morgan and the 
financial moguls. Even in the Middle West-the bulwark of the isola- 
tionistssentiment began to turn toward intervention, not for any 
material advantage or territorial acquisitions which might result from 
joining the Allies, but to "beat the Kaiser" and those cold-eyed Ger- 
man "war lords" under their death's-head shakos, to "get it over with." 

But it takes fear as well as angry passion to drive a people to war. 
What really propelled American sentiment toward intervention was 
the apprehension that Germany, once it had defeated the Allies, would 
turn its ferocious attention on the United States for having been less 
neutral toward France and Britain than toward the Central Powers. 
This fear, largely the creation of Allied propagandists, was given a 
tremendous stimulus by a German blunder which turned out to be 
fatal. Large numbers of Americans were convinced of Germany's belli- 
cose designs when a coded message from the German Foreign Minis- 
ter to his legation in Mexico the famous Zimmermann notewas in- 
tercepted by the British. "If this attempt [at keeping the United States 
neutral] is not successful, we propose an alliance on the following 
basis with Mexico: that we shall make war together and together make 
peace. We shall give generous financial support, and it is understood 


that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in New Mexico, Texas, 
and Arizona. . . ." 

The State Department confirmed the contents of the decoded Zim- 
mermann message on March 1. For the next month the war drums 
sounded from press, pulpit, and every public platform with a quicken- 
ing beat. None were more urgent in demanding that America go to 
war than the ministers of God. The New York Federation of Churches 
proclaimed March 11 "War Sunday." From coast to coast, militant 
preachers denied that Christ was a pacifist, that war was evil, that 
killing Germans was any violation of the Commandments. The evan- 
gelist Billy Sunday, addressing a throng in Times Square, was only 
phrasing their thoughts more vividly when he shouted, "If hell could 
be turned upside down, you would find stamped on its bottom, 'Made 
in Germany'!" 

One of the more violent advocates of war was former President 
Theodore Roosevelt, who declared, "It has been a war of murder upon 
us! There is no question about 'going to war.' Germany is already at 
war with us." Newspaper editorials echoed him throughout the coun- 
try. "Declare war!" demanded the New York Tribune. Other news- 
papers only picked up the refrain in lengthier and more sonorous 

And still Wilson hesitated. At his second inaugural on March 5, he 
expressed the hope that "the shadows that now He dark upon our path 
will soon be dispelled and we shall walk with the light all about us if 
we be but true to ourselves. . . ."He was drowned out by the marchers 
in war parades, by mob action against pacifist organizations, by ranting 
orators on every street corner. 

Finally, on the evening of April 2, President Wilson appeared be- 
fore Congress to declare that "we shall fight for the things which we 
have always carried nearest our hearts" and asked that body to "for- 
mally accept the status of belligerent which has been forced upon us." 
Congress cheered. On his ride back to the White House, the people 
cheered from the sidewalks along Pennsylvania Avenue. The capital 
throbbed with a febrile rejoicing. But there was no echo of this jubila- 
tion in the mind and heart of the President. "Think what it was they 
were applauding," he told his secretary. "My message today was a mes- 
sage of death for our young men." 

Four days later, war was declared. 


On May 7, Major General John J. Pershing, commanding the 
Southern Department with headquarters at San Antonio, was sum- 
moned to Washington by the War Department. For a month and a day 
the United States had been officially at war with the Central Powers. 
A commander was soon to be chosen for the first American troops to 
be sent abroad. Furthermore, Pershing's father-in-law, Senator Francis 
Warren, had telegraphed him a somewhat cryptic query several days 
before on whether he spoke French, to which Pershing could only 
reply that he did, somewhat, having grappled with the language at 
West Point without signal success and having resumed his study during 
a visit to France in 1908. Putting the query, the summons, and the 
need for an Expeditionary Force commander together, Pershing was 
justified in concluding that he would soon be going abroad with new 
and greater responsibilities. 

That day he began keeping a diary which, unlike other journals 
abandoned after a few days or a few weeks of random observations, 
covered every day of his life for the next several years. Typewritten 
and contained in large loose-leaf notebooks, it was a careful record 
of the people he saw each day, the places he visited, some of the things 
he said and those said to him. Hardly a twinge of self-pity, only an 
occasional essay in self-justification, rippled across the dispassionate 
surface of those thousands of pages. Rarely a quiver of emotion of any 
landexcept an occasional flash of anger was contained in that long 
record. The most momentous days of his career were related with 
barely a flutter of elation. For all the sense of grandeur or misery it 
conveys, the Pershing war diary might well have been the journal of 
some obscure quartermaster. As a diarist he was as grimly reticent as 
Pershing the commander in chief, close-mouthed and poker-faced in a 
wartime Paris known to be crawling with spies, agents, and political 
tattletales. He could no more have bared his emotional life on paper 
than he could have shouted out military secrets in the Place de la 

On his journey to Washington he recorded only that he left San 
Antonio at 11 :30 P.M. on May 7 and arrived in the capital on May 
10 at 8:30 A.M. 

Two hours after his arrival in Washington he was named com- 
manding general of whatever forces were to be sent to France and, in 
effect, was handed the greatest responsibility of any American officer 


since General Grant was summoned by President Lincoln in the spring 
of 1864. 

Pershing, however, was able to describe the events of that day in 
little more than a hundred words: "May 10, 1917 Occupied General 
George B. Davis' apartment at the Connecticut. Reported to the Sec- 
retary of War at about 10:30 A.M. Was informed by the Secretary of 
War that I was to command the American troops in France; and that 
I should be prepared to leave for France as soon as possible. In the 
afternoon had a conference with the Secretary of War, with the Chief 
of Staff, General Scott, with the Assistant Chief of Staff, General Bliss, 
and the President of the War College, General Kuhn. Reports relative 
to the meetings held with French and British officers of the two mis- 
sions then in America were gone over. Remained at the War Depart- 
ment until about 6:30 P.M." 

It was soon apparent to Pershing and his fellow generals that Wilson, 
the most reluctant of war Presidents, would leave the military details 
to his experts. The whole aim of his Administration had been to avoid 
any gestures which might seriously impair neutrality, though its general 
bias was toward the Allies. In 1916 he had campaigned successfully 
on the reminder that "he kept us out of war." He had labored endlessly 
to bring about a negotiated peace during the period when it appeared 
that the opposing forces were so evenly matched that the war would 
end in a stalemate. The possibility that the deadlock could be broken 
arose when the Russian Czar was overthrown; now the Russian armies 
were falling back and revolting against continuance of the fighting, 
and German forces would be freed for decisive action on the western 
front. No longer did the chance for negotiation exist. 

President Wilson, finally taking the plunge on the grounds that "the 
world must be made safe for democracy," had so evident a distaste for 
military matters, for the mechanics of organizing and operating an 
Army in the field, that his generals were assured that they would be 
allowed to work out the problems of confronting a near-victorious 
Germany without much interference from the White House. 

In the month following the declaration of war, it was decided that 
at least "token" forces were to be sent to Europe, as well as money, 
supplies, and naval assistance in combating the German submarines. 
The debate over who was to command the ground forces was brief. 
General Funston died six weeks before. Most of the Army's senior 
generals-including Scott and Bliss-were close to retirement. Major 


General Leonard Wood, on the other hand, possessed many qualifica- 
tions: he was an able and magnetic military leader, had performed 
great service hi organizing the Plattsburg officers' training camp, and 
had acquired more national prestige than any of the eligible generals. 
But he was also politically ambitious, worse yet (from the Administra- 
tion's viewpoint) was a Republican and a close collaborator of 
Theodore Roosevelt's. He could neither keep his mouth shut nor his 
pen still. He had referred to the "spineless rabbit" in the White House 
and the epithet had rankled in Wilson, who was neither spineless nor 
rabbity, nor incapable of keeping his detractors hi their place. 

That left Pershing, who could keep his mouth shut and who had 
proved that he could maintain a respectable state of subordination 
even when called upon to execute orders such as wrecked whatever 
chances of success existed for the Mexican expedition. Generals Scott 
and Bliss both favored him, as did Secretary of War Baker, and Presi- 
dent Wilson at least had nothing against him. So Pershing was selected 
for the command which, it was first thought, would consist of a divi- 
sion of infantry-and which eventually became forty-one divisions, 
2,086,000 men, and the gigantic machinery of transport and supply re- 
quired to usher them into battle. 

The question of "how soon and how much" actual fighting assist- 
ance the United States would be able to give the Allies on the west- 
ern front was soon to arise and would be an increasing vexation to 
General Pershing hi the months ahead, since the ignorant and the im- 
patient assumed that mighty America would throw huge forces against 
the Germans within weeks after entering the war. Little attention was 
paid President Wilson's statement that the Navy would go into action 
immediately, having a formidable fleet in being, but that building an 
army from scratch would take time. As Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the 
future Allied generalissimo, said, "It was a question of putting on a 
war footing a country of over a hundred million inhabitants. Every- 
thing had to be created. The regular army, maintained on a scale 
sufficient for the narrow requirements of peacetime, could only furnish 
a small fraction of what was necessary for the mobilization of the 
numerous divisions which America had decided to raise. These had to 
be constructed from the ground up-their staffs, their officers and non- 
commissioned officers, their troops, as well as the large supply of mat6- 
riel without which nothing can be done in modern war. An entirely new 
instrument had to be forged. And not only was it necessary to forge on 


a vast scale but to forge quickly. The war had been going on for three 
years; no one can doubt that its very amplitude and intensity rendered 
its continuance for any great length of tune impossible; if America was 
to make her weight felt in the final decision, she must hurry her forces 
to Europe with the utmost speed." 

Pershing moved into Room 223 in the War Department, across the 
hall from Scott's and Bliss's offices, and began assembling a staff with 
which he would take command of the American Expeditionary Force. 
He was given only eighteen days in Washington during which to famil- 
iarize himself with the situation and organize a Headquarters to ac- 
company him to France. Every hour of the normal working day, and 
much of the night v was crammed with conferences, interviews, and staff 
meetings. He met Baker and Wilson for the first time. He conferred 
with staff officers concerned with supplying the A.E.F., whatever size 
and shape it assumed. He acquainted himself with the views of the 
French and British missions the French headed by their former com- 
mander in chief, Marshal Joffre, a sleepy old fellow with a mellow 
disposition and a rather appealing simplicity of manner, the British by 
General Tom Bridges and Arthur Balfour. 

Chief of Staff Scott and his deputy, General Bliss, both of whom 
reached retirement age later that year, tried to keep Pershing advised 
of the shifting, often opposed sentiments of the two missions. The 
French and British were unanimous on the necessity of increasing aid, 
human and material, but they let their requirements be known grad- 
ually as though fearful that their new ally might decide the venture was 
too costly and withdraw in dismay. Even before Pershing left Ameri- 
can shores, the French and British, according to General Bliss's diary, 
were proposing that American troops be sent abroad as soon as ship- 
ping was available, that they forego Stateside training and "join and 
co-operate with" the Allied armies. The Allies, in brief, were hinting 
already that what they really wanted was not an American Army, but 
American troops who would serve as replacements for the battle- 
thinned Allied divisions. 

General Bliss then and later wavered toward the Anglo-French 
views. On May 4 he wrote General Scott a memorandum stating that 
"if we want to get into the war with both feet at the earliest possible 
date, the only way to do it is to follow the recommendations of the two 
Missions." He also suggested that "all but a small part of our regular 


army and National Guard and the first 500,000 men" be sent to Europe 
as quickly as they could be organized, clothed, and transported. 

From the beginning, Pershing opposed any such fragmentation of 
American forces, and perhaps his greatest service as the commander 
in chief was his unyielding insistence that our divisions fight under their 
own flag and command. He did not propose to be left in token com- 
mand of a shadow army, gracefully filling a ceremonial role while for- 
eign generals fought the war with his troops. 

Three weeks later when he took over for Scott, who had been dis- 
patched with Elihu Root's mission to persuade the Kerensky regime to 
keep Russia hi the war, Bliss grew somewhat disillusioned with the 
Allies' maneuverings and informed Secretary of War Baker: "It was 
not long before they [the French and British missions] said quite 
openly that we would not feel that we were in the war until we were 
'well blooded'; that what we needed was to have a large casualty list 
telegraphed home and that that would stir our fighting blood. . . . 
When the war is over it may be a literal fact that the American flag 
may not have appeared anywhere on the line because our organizations 
will simply be parts of battalions and regiments of the Entente Allies. 
We might have a million men there and no American commander." 
The Allied missionaries, he now observed, no longer talked of "token" 
American forces to show themselves abroad just for the "moral effect." 

Pershing, meanwhile, was pondering the vital question of whom to 
appoint as his chief of staff. Frederick Palmer, the veteran war cor- 
respondent who was to become chief censor on the A.E.F. staff, noted 
that "there was some concern lest Pershing should give the big plum 
to a certain classmate who had notably enjoyed his personal friend- 
ship." Instead, Pershing was seriously considering a man he knew only 
slightly, an obscure major then on duty at the War College. His name 
was James G. Harbord. The two men had met a number of times on 
shipboard, coming from or going to the Philippines, and in the Islands, 
but they had never been closely associated. Harbord himself held little 
hope of a choice assignment for several reasons: he was not a West 
Pointer, he had come up from the ranks, and he was known as a "Wood 
man," having served under General Wood for a number of years. Fur- 
thermore, at their first meeting Harbord had to confess that he didn't 
speak French. Pershing didn't tell him what he had in mind but said, 
"Anyhow, I'm going to take you with me to France." Pershing liked 
everything he knew about Major Harbord: his excellent service as 


head of the Moro Constabulary, his quick intelligence, his ability to 
work with other people, and his firm jaw line (Pershing favored men 
with strong jaws, like his own). He soon decided to name Major Har- 
bord as his chief of staff the best appointment he ever made. No more 
valuable man served with the A.E.F. 

The job of fleshing out his staff was complicated by the fact that 
many of the most capable officers had already been earmarked for 
other duty the enormous job of training the draftees and the National 
Guard divisions, of mobilizing industry and transport and supply fa- 
cilities, of building huge new camps, and of reinforcing the General 
Staff itself. He did manage to lay hands on three youngish majors of 
the Regular Army who were to perform heroic, if relatively anonymous, 
services on his "staff throughout the war. Dennis E. Nolan, who had 
served under him before, was placed in charge of the G-2 (Intelli- 
gence) section. Fox Conner, who had been a cadet at West Point 
during Pershing's unpopular year there as a tactical officer, an im- 
perturbable and highly educated artillery officer with a year's service 
in a French artillery regiment, took over the most important section, 
G-3 (Operations). Hugh A. Drum had caught Pershing's attention 
during his brief command of the Southern Department by submitting 
a plan for organizing it more efficiently. He also was attached to the 
pioneer staff and later became chief of staff of the First American 

In the eighteen days before he sailed for France, Pershing collected 
a group of 187 men to form the vanguard of the American forces. 
Seventy were enlisted men of the Regular Army, sixty were field clerks 
and civilians. 

A suggestion of the enormity of the task awaiting Pershing's van- 
guard came from Major Conner, who had been attached to the Joffre 
mission just before joining the A.E.F. staff. Conner reported that on 
the eve of his departure from the United States Marshal Joffre remarked 
that at least 500,000 American troops would be needed in France. 

Pershing's directives from his own government were brief, but left 
no doubt as to where his duty lay. "In military operations against the 
Imperial German Government," read President Wilson's order, "you 
are directed to cooperate with the forces of other countries employed 
against the enemy; but in so doing the underlying idea must be kept 
in view that the forces of the United States are a separate and distinct 
component of the combined forces, the identity of which must be pre- 


served. This fundamental rule is subject to such minor exceptions in 
particular circumstances as your judgment may approve. The decision 
as to when your command or any of its parts is ready for action is 
confided to you, and you will exercise full discretion in determining 
the manner of cooperation." 

In the months ahead, the "fundamental rule" preserving the United 
States forces as "a separate and distinct component" was to be of criti- 
cal importance. Fortunately, in applying it, in using it as his shield and 
buckler, Pershing had the firm support of Wilson and Baker. They 
never once let him down. Their determination to preserve for him the 
full power of discretion strengthened his hand enormously when the 
statesmen and generals of France and Britain sought to sway him by 
every kind of moral, intellectual, and propagandist^ pressure. 

The Secretary of War's parting words were crisp and unsentimental. 

"I shall give you only two orders," Baker told Pershing, "one to go 
and one to return." 

The occasionally sardonic Baker did not elucidate, but the ominous 
inference could be taken that the order to return would be issued if 
Pershing proved incapable and had to be replaced. Later on, however, 
Baker said that the possibility of Pershing's relief was never considered 
through all the vicissitudes of his command. 

The departure of Pershing and his headquarters for France was 
supposed to be the topmost top secret of the War Department. Pre- 
sumably the people who knew that he was to sail on the Baltic May 28 
realized that if the Germans learned that the commander of the Ameri- 
can Expeditionary Force was on the high seas aboard a certain ship 
they would make every effort to torpedo it as the liner passed through 
the danger zone off the British Isles. During the first three months of 
unrestricted submarine warfare, 844 ships of all nationalities had been 
sunk by U-boats. German agents were known to be plentiful in the 
capital and along the New York waterfront, from which the Baltic 
would sail. 

Yet the Pershing embarkation was one of the worst-kept secrets of 
the war. Even before they left Washington for New York, members of 
his staff had every reason to fear that their mission would end in the 
icy waters of the North Atlantic. Major Harbord wrote in his diary 
that the staff was greatly concerned over "War Department bureau 
chiefs regaling dinner guests with secrets supposed to be sacred; with 
the Pershing party hiding its heads around the capital for two weeks, 


avoiding its friends and looking mysterious when Europe was men- 
tioned; with the clever staff departments shipping its supplies to the 
White Star pier to lie there for hours with 'General Pershing's Head- 
quarters' stencilled in boxcar letters for the whole world to read." 

The day before Frederick Palmer left for New York to board the 
Baltic he lunched at the Shoreham and heard Colonel George M. 
Harvey, editor of the North American Review, violent patriot and anti- 
Wilson partisan, and characterized by Palmer as "chief of the whisper- 
ing gallery in Washington," sounding off at a nearby table. 

"In a voice that could be heard across the room," Palmer said, the 
vociferous Harvey was telling his guests: "'I know when Pershing's 
going and on what ship. It's the Baltic.' " 

Palmer reflecte'd that it would be "somewhat discomfiting if our 
first report of Pershing's landing on the other side of the Atlantic had 
to come to us from the German port of Kiel [one of the chief sub- 
marine bases], accompanied by an explanation that while there had 
been room for him, his Chief of Staff and his aides on the submarine 
that had sunk the Baltic, the rest of the Commander-in-Chief s staff 
had been left, under urgent military necessity, in open boats on the 
Atlantic. It was conceivably just such an indiscretion as this that may 
have informed the Germans that Lord Kitchener was going to Russia 
on the cruiser that was sunk hi the North Sea, tragically ending his 

Pershing's first and only interview with President Wilson took place 
at the White House four days before he left Washington. Both men 
were brief; Pershing because that was his nature, Wilson apparently 
because, unlike Lincoln, he had no great curiosity about the man 
who would lead his countrymen into battle. Pershing thanked the 
President for the honor and responsibility conferred upon him, and 
Wilson replied, "General, you are chosen entirely upon your record 
and I have every confidence you will succeed. You shall have my full 

May 28, 1917, was a gray, rainy day hi New York as Pershing 
and his party gathered on Governors Island for the embarkation on 
the Baltic, which on the journey coming over from Europe had twice 
been attacked by submarines. Another momentous day in Pershing's 
lifeand again, hi his diary, he was laconic, his emotions on setting 
out on the greatest adventure of his life leakproof as usual. "Breakfast 
at the Astor," he wrote. "Rained hard during the morning. Went to 


Governors Island ferry in civilian clothes with Captain Collins, he 
stopping at Walcott Hotel to see the Fattens [Captain George S. Pat- 
ton, Jr., who was to rejoin his staff in France until he transferred to 
the Tank Corps, and his wife]. Crossed on the 11:15 ferry. Major 
Bacon in uniform crossed with us. Had chat with General Bell at 
Governors Island, and left about 12:30 in driving rainstorm for the 1 
Baltic. The Baltic was delayed about an hour in sailing, so we boarded 
her hi the Channel at 3:30, the Baltic sailing about 5:15. Lunched 
as soon as we went aboard. Arrangements generally satisfactory." 

Harbord, with his keen eye for the human comedy, was more re- 
vealing in his own diary. The A.E.F.'s Chief of Staff recorded that 
Pershing and his party were ambushed on Governors Island by a force- 
ful and argumentative "female major general" hi charge of the wom- 
en's service camp at Glen Echo (a sort of forerunner of the WAC), 
who demanded the privilege of accompanying Pershing on the tender 
which took them to the Baltic, as a sort of guard of honor. "The 
way the General's iron jaw clamped down on the proposition of the 
ladies to accompany us to Gravesend," Harbord wrote, "confirms my 
faith in the wisdom of the President in selecting him for France." 
Blacked out as night fell, the Baltic slid down the harbor toward the 
open sea, and as Harbord said, "There was no inspiring view of the 
New York skyline, no-Napoleon-on-the-Bellerophon-gazing-at-the- 
fast-fading-shores-of-France for us, for it was cold and raw, and a 
fog like a pall settled over the green shores of Long Island." 

The Baltic proceeded up the fog-shrouded coast to Halifax, with 
its horns blowing at three-minute intervals. A rumor swept the ship 
that there was a German waiter, signed on in New York, working in 
the ship's dining room. An immediate investigation was conducted 
and quickly ended when it was learned that the suspect's name was 
Jorgenson, not something more luridly Teutonic. Boat drills were held 
the first day out, with stern instructions given that the half-dozen 
women aboard were to be accorded priority in the lifeboats, if it came 
to that. "When a torpedo strikes and you stroll up to a lifeboat ex- 
pecting to take a seat in it," Harbord confided to his diary, "it must 
be very annoying to have your toes stepped on by a lady who beats 
you to it." 

Pershing decided it would be best to keep everyone occupied and 
let the ship's officers and crew worry about lurking submarines. Be- 
ginning the second day out, classes in French were held at 10 A.M. 


and 4 P.M. daily by the French-speaking interpreters with Headquar- 
ters. Afterward and in-between there were a number of lectures and 
staff discussions, a Colonel Puckle of the British Army lecturing on 
supply problems, and even Pershing (as he wrote in his diary June 3) 
"attended a lecture by Dr. Young on venereal diseases." 

There was menace above as well as below the surface of the spring- 
time Atlantic. It was the iceberg season and Harbord noted that the 
Baltic passed "at a comparatively short distance an iceberg as large 
as the fatal one on which the Titanic met its fate" and "it shimmered 
and shone like glass in the moonlight." The ship's concert was given 
on the night of June 2, at which General Pershing delivered a "very 
neat little few minutes' talk, describing among other things the last 
similar concert he had attended when he and Sir Ian Hamilton were 
traveling together between Shanghai and Hongkong during the Russo- 
Japanese War." An opera singer, Helen Juta, closed the program by 
singing "Keep the Home Fires Burning," "Laddies in Khaki," the 
"Marseillaise," "America," and "God Save the King." 

The night of June 5 the Baltic crossed into the danger zone and 
began steering on the zigzag course recommended for avoiding tor- 
pedoes from the ninety to 100 U-boats then reported in the waters 
adjacent to the British Isles. The sea was calm, the moon was bright, 
and everything was auspicious for the sudden appearance of a German 
periscope slitting the water like a shark's fin. All passengers were ad- 
vised to sleep in their clothes, with a life jacket handy, and to keep 
a flask of brandy in one of their pockets against the possibility of 
spending the night in an open boat. Day broke after a sleepless night; 
then three American destroyers came steaming out from their base 
at Queenstown to convoy the Baltic into the Irish Channel. Inter- 
service rivalry was forgotten as the soldiers on the Baltic blessed the 
Navy with every glimpse of the sub killers plowing ahead and along- 
side of them. 

Palmer, the censor-to-be, recalled a conversation he had with Per- 
shing as the Baltic zigzagged under escort through the submarine zone. 
The general had been reading a book Palmer wrote on the first offen- 
sive attempted by the British New Armies, "Kitchener's Mob," along 
the Somme. Pershing thought it "horrible beyond words that the civ- 
ilized world should suffer such bloodshed and destruction, horrible 
that our country should have to join in." He seemed to have con- 
sidered, for the first time since being thrown into the hurried prepara- 


tions for sailing for France, the human cost of joining the Allies on 
the western front. "The only way to end it is by force," he continued, 
"and we must end it as soon as possible. ... It will take us time 
before we can make our power felt. ... As I see it now we shall 
have to plan for an army of a million in France." 

Like the men he was soon to join in commanding armies on the 
western front, he was "horrified" by the wastage of human life; also 
like them, whether it was Ludendorff or P6tain, Hindenburg or Haig, 
Foch or the crown prince of Germany, no solution seemed to have 
occurred to him but the application of more and more force, the ex- 
plosion of more cordite, and the frontward march of more divisions. 
But then political leaders had shown a similar aversion for talk of a 
negotiated peace the only possible alternative whether it came from 
the White House, the Vatican, or the Grand Lamasery of Tibet. The 
thought of turning back from the slaughter without offering a victory 
to their peoples in return for all their sacrifices was too alarming to 
contemplate. Revolutionary mobs in Moscow and Petrograd precluded 
all contemplation of a peace without victory. 

Pershing and his party landed in England June 8 without sighting 
a U-boat and spent four days there en route to France. Everywhere 
they went there were cheering crowds, massed dignitaries, flowers 
strewn in their path, silk hats and gold braid in all directions. The 
Allies were intent on putting their best foot forward before the grim 
truth of the situation on the western front, necessarily concealed from 
their own peoples, was revealed to the American commander. The 
facade was impressive, especially with rural England at the height of 
its springtime beauty. 

The first glimpse of General Pershing seemed to be reassuring to 
the people to whom he represented the potential millions of fresh 
American troops. At fifty-seven he was still as lean and erect as when 
he commanded a cavalry troop. Stepping ashore, hand on sword hilt, 
he was the personification of what Europeans expected in an Ameri- 
can general, with his jutting jaw, his lancelike eyes under the shadow 
of his visor, the straight firm line of his mouth under a close-cropped 
mustache, and best of all the air of unalterable self-confidence. 

On the dock at Liverpool he was greeted by the lord mayor, the 
United States military attache, British generals and admirals, fifty 
newspapermen and newsreel cameramen, and the band of the Welsh 
Fusiliers playing "The Star-Spangled Banner." The only moments of 


embarrassment occurred when British officers had difficulty interpret- 
ing American rank badges. A British colonel deferred at length to 
Major Harbord under the impression that he was a general officer. 

At Euston Station, in London, the turnout was even more impres- 
sive. Pershing and his staff were greeted by United States Ambassador 
Walter Hines Page, Admiral W. S. Sims (the American naval com- 
mander in Europe, who had preceded Pershing by two months), the 
lord mayor of London, and a British military delegation headed by 
Field Marshal French, who had commanded the British armies in 
France until he had been superseded by Haig. At Harbord's sugges- 
tionhis own sense of public relations was deficient Pershing shook 
hands with the engineer and fireman of the train which brought him 
from Liverpool to London, while the newsreel men cranked away at 
their cameras. 

The British aristocracy seized upon him at once, and the stateliest 
homes hi England were thrown open to him. Brigadier Lord Brooke, 
the future Earl of Warwick, taking over as his aide-de-camp during 
his stay in England, kept Pershing's rooms at the Savoy filled with 
flowers bearing the card, "Compliments of Lord and Lady Brooke." 
On June 10, the American commander was received at Buckingham 
Palace by King George V, and that night saw George Robey in Zig- 
Zag, the musical-comedy hit that ran for the duration of the war a 
required item on the agenda of all visitors. 

Next day Pershing found himself trapped in a social tug of war 
between General Sir Arthur Paget, commanding the home forces, 
and the Anglo-American Waldorf As tors. Pershing was supposed to 
appear at General Paget's country place for tea and dinner, but some- 
how the imperious Nancy Astor, with the help of Ambassador Page, 
intercepted him and swept him off to the Canadian Hospital, "a pet of 
Mrs. Astor's," as Major Harbord noted. It was left to Harbord, who 
would soon be thoroughly experienced in covering up for his chief's 
delays and absences, to ease the embarrassment and bewilderment at 
the Pagets' country home. "It was a rather trying day as far as the 
tact required to explain our Ambassador and our General was con- 
cerned," Harbord confided to his diary that night. Not until shortly 
after 8 P.M. more than a half hour late for dinner did Pershing and 
his fellow truants appear before their host and hostess. 

Next day Pershing conferred briefly with Sir William Robertson, 
chief of the British Imperial General Staff, who had served in the 


ranks for eleven years and had never quite lost his Cockney accent. 
Someone told Harbord how Robertson, when he was designated to 
replace General Horace Smith-Dorrien during the retreat from Mons, 
bluntly informed his predecessor, " 'Grace, you for 'ome." On June 12, 
his last day in England, Pershing accompanied General Paget to 
Brentwood, the headquarters of the home command, and watched 
demonstrations of trench attacks, mortar barrages, and the defensive 
and offensive use of poison gas. He saluted the march past of the 
1 7th Yorkshire, pasty-faced boys from the mill towns. Harbord said 
he was anything but impressed by the Yorkshiremen, "runts, crooked, 
undeveloped," nor their officers, who seemed languid and lily fingered 
and affected the fashionable "Sandhurst stoop," but the Americans 
would learn that stunted mill boys and slouching officers could handle 
their share of the fighting. At a state dinner that night Prime Minister 
David Lloyd George was fifteen minutes late, Harbord observed, but 
"he can do that sort of thing . . . and our General is no mean imi- 

Field Marshal French warned Pershing and Harbord that on their 
arrival in France they would be "kissed and cried over," having rather 
a contemptuous regard for French emotionalism, and recalled that 
the first time he met Marshal Joffre the latter was sitting in his tent, 
weeping over the first German flag his army had captured. 

A British officer politely inquired of Pershing, "General, is this your 
personal staff?" 

"No," snapped Pershing, "this is my General Staff." 

The Pershing party left Charing Cross at 5:40 A.M. June 13, crossed 
the Channel from Folkestone to Boulogne, and landed in France 
amid an even warmer and more hopeful welcome than the British 
had given them. In the Boulogne basin as they docked were tramp 
steamers discharging Annamite troops from Indochina, Senegalese 
from North Africa, testifying to the strain on French resources. Per- 
shing towered over the French military and civilian leaders on the 
dockside cobbles, and Wilbur Forrest, among the war correspondents 
on hand from American newspapers and press services, thought he 
was physically the most impressive of all the Allied commanders he 
had seen. "In physique alone Pershing stood out among commanders, 
a superb erect figure, a model of military bearing. . . . His European 
uniforms were for the most part the product of the best English tailors, 
and they draped his upstanding figure better than those of British or 


French generals did theirs. Pershing's very physical bearing told much 
of his vigor and power of leadership." 

Pershing and his officers came to a halt on the dock as a French 
regimental band played "The Star-Spangled Banner" over and over 
again, until (Harbord said) "even the General, who stands like a 
statue, growled over the number of times they were playing it." Then 
"a dozen fuzzy little Frenchmen came up," each saluting and making 
a little speech. 

Among the French greeters was Lieutenant Colonel Comte de 
Chambrun, the great-grandson of Lafayette and also brother-in-law 
of American congressman Nicholas Longworth, who was to be at- 
tached to Pershing as a liaison officer and interpreter of French cus- 
toms. Harbord wryly observed that Chambrun "speaks good English 
and a great deal of it." 

Napoleon reincarnated could hardly have received a more enthusi- 
astic welcome as the Americans proceeded by rail to Paris. Crowds 
cheered them at every railway station along the way, threw flowers 
into their cars, and pressed wine on them at every stop. They arrived 
at the Gare du Nord at 6:30 P.M., when Parisians ordinarily would 
be off the streets, but there were hundreds of thousands massed 
around the station who, Harbord reported, "cheered and shouted and 
wept as only a French crowd can do." Night had fallen when Pershing 
stepped out on a balcony overlooking the Place de la Concorde and a 
roar went up from the throngs that seemed to split the sky. Never 
again, anywhere, would Pershing hear such an outcry. It was the 
whole French nation saluting the man who represented the only hope 
that France had left. 

For days after the arrival in Paris it went on like that. Pershing 
and his officers passed through a succession of elegant chambers 
where the wealth and aristocracy of France stood to greet them as 
khaki-clad gods of the new world. Pershing was received at the Presi- 
dential Palace, watched the fly past of hundreds of planes at Le 
Bourget airdrome, dined with War Minister Paul Painleve under 
Gobelin tapestries with an orchestra playing in the garden. He called 
on Marshal Joffre at the Military Club and had to appear on the 
balcony repeatedly until the crowds cheered themselves hoarse. The 
Chamber of Deputies "nearly went amuck," Harbord wrote, when he 
paid a call. When he appeared in the President's box at the Opera 
Comique, an American woman sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" and 


a French girl the "Marseillaise," after which the audience sang and 
cheered for fifteen minutes. "God grant," was Major Harbord's somber 
thought, "that there may be no reaction hi the months that must pass 
before American flags fly in the trenches." 

It was a mass love affair, bordering on dementia, raising expecta- 
tions on the part of the volatile French to the heights of delusion. 

Pershing kept his head while under the focus of this heedless adula- 
tion. He could not help being pleased by cheers that rocketed to the 
rooftops every tune he gave the public a glimpse of himself, but he 
had a clear vision of the difficulties that lay ahead, the disiUusion- 
ments and differences of opinion that would arise when he and his 
opposite numbers got down to the business of working out the practi- 
cal details of military alliance. "Difficult to see how we are to meet 
the expectations of the French," he laconically observed in his diary 
on June 14. Who would cheer when the French people realized that 
it would be many months before any sizable number of combat-ready 
American divisions could be convoyed across the Atlantic, across 
France, through training centers and "quiet sectors," and finally de- 
ployed for the offensive? 

And even while the cheering resounded, there were ominous under- 
tones, audible at least to the perceptive chief of staff of the A.E.F. 
Under the hullabaloo, Harbord heard "many rumors of French regi- 
ments who have recently refused to go 'over the top,' " and reports 
that "twelve men were shot recently" as examples to the rest. Harbord 
thought that "there is no doubt that the French morale is waning." 
But it was worse than that, much worse. It was the reality that under- 
lay the frenzied Parisian welcome of the first American forces to land 
in France. 

8. The War- Weary French 

Of all the French military and political leaders, ranging in tempera- 
ment from the Cossack hetman's personality of Clemenceau to the 
amiable simplicity of Joffre, the one who captured General Pershing's 
wholehearted admiration and affection was General Henri-Philippe 
P6tain, the commander in chief of all troops in the French sectors of 
the western front. 

"My impression of Petain was favorable," Pershhig wrote after 
their first meeting, "and it remained unchanged throughout the war." 
After the armistice, Pershhig continued to "treasure" P6tain's friend- 
ship, as he said, and even during World War II, when Plain's name 
was synonymous with treason throughout the anti-Fascist world, he 
stood by him, confident that his friend's motives were being misunder- 
stood. The friendship, particularly during the war, was more one- 
sided than Pershing suspected, for P6tain was not above criticizing 
the American behind his back. 

One reason that Petain attracted Pershing and many other Ameri- 
cans was the fact that he did not look or act particularly French, or 
at least not in the vaudeville concept of French behavior. Unlike the 
eloquent and gesticulating Foch, for instance, he was calm, deliber- 
ate, and aloof. "There is nothing distinctively Gallic hi his appearance/' 
Harbord noted approvingly. "He has blue eyes and looks you in the 
face when he speaks to you." 

The Americans tended to distrust the ebullience of many French 
soldiers and were reassured by Petain's plain-spoken attitude, which 
was more like their own, and what Harbord called his "eminent com- 
mon sense." Pershhig saw him as a man with whom he could co- 


operate to a degree "rarely attained between men or peoples of 
different nationalities" because of his "breadth of vision, his common 
sense and his sound judgment." Unlike other French generals with 
their arm-waving predictions of the victory to be won with just a few 
American divisions as a stiffening element, Petain gloomily "hoped 
they were not too late" and spoke of Allied prospects with the "solemn 
seriousness of a sacrament." 

Pessimism, in fact, had paradoxically carried P6tain to the highest 
command. At the start of the war, French officers of the Grandmaison 
school-"the attack, always the attacks-staked everything on the be- 
lief that sheer offensive spirit would sweep aside the plodding gray 
columns crossing the Rhine from Germany. Petain had little faith in 
6lan as a strategic weapon of war and fought his own kind of battles 
with emphasis on artillery concentrations, infantry fire power, and 
taking the defensive whenever possible. Three years of war appeared 
to have vindicated his unromantic views. 

P6tain had always been something of a dull fellow among his gal- 
lant and high-spirited comrades of the French officers' corps. At sixty, 
with his bald crown and his large dreary mustache, his cold and 
watchful blue eyes, he looked more like the cashier of a particularly 
conservative provincial bank than the field commander of the French 

His prewar career had been undistinguished. He had served as a 
line officer in the Chasseurs and as an instructor in the Army's special 
schools, always preaching the necessity for increased fire power and 
dourly keeping his own counsel, while Foch and his disciples spread 
the gospel of the grand offensive. When war came, he took command 
of the 4th Brigade in Lanrezac's Fifth Army, then the 6th Division, 
as the French armies were driven back to the Marne, establishing him- 
self as a first-rate specialist in the defense. He was one of the first 
high French officers to realize that the war had turned into a siege 
and that if France was to endure it must conserve its man power. 
Promoted to command the XXXIII Corps in the Arras sector, he care- 
fully mounted an attack at Vimy in the spring of 1915 which broke 
through the German line for two miles a considerable success in 
those dismal days-and resulted in his elevation to the Second Army 
in the Champagne sector. 

When the Germans launched their massive offensive at the complex 
of forts around Verdun early in 1916, hoping to grind the life out 


of the French Army in the process, Petain, with his special capacity 
for holding a position, was the natural choice to supervise the defense. 
Between February and July that year the French took 350,000 casual- 
ties to the Germans' 281,000, a proportion they could ill afford, but 
losing Verdun would have been disastrous. Petain had to supply his 
defending forces of nearly half a million men through a local tramline 
and the narrow road from Bar-le-Duc, all other routes being under 
direct fire from German artillery. 

Rocklike, always on the defense, Petain held onto Verdun, and the 
Army and the nation survived. In April of 1917 he took over as chief 
of the General Staff. He became commander in chief of all forces in 
the Zone of the Armies after the failure of the French offensive under- 
taken that spring just as America entered the war. 

For all his successes, mostly defensive in character, and his ac- 
clamation as the "Savior of France," Petain only grew more pes- 
simistic about the outcome of the war. The Germans, he believed, 
were simply an unbeatable race of soldiers. He shocked Sir Henry 
Wilson, the British liaison officer with French headquarters, by assert- 
ing that three German divisions of nine battalions each were the equal 
of four French or British divisions of thirteen battalions each. And 
when it appeared that the fall of the czarist regime would remove 
Russia as the eastern ally, Petain told Sir Henry, "If Russia ran out 
we might have to make peace." That conviction of German superior- 
ity, which flowered most fully and disastrously in 1941, apparently 
did not sufficiently disturb his fellow Frenchmen. Hadn't Petain al- 
ways been a gloomy old fellow, even in his youth? 

The Americans took this pessimism to be a healthy sense of realism 
when they confronted it in 1917. There was really very little to be 
cheerful about. German armies still stood on French and Belgian soil, 
and all attempts to dislodge them had failed. Italy had its hands full 
keeping the Austro-German forces north of the Piave. Rumania had 
almost been knocked out of the war by the Hungarians and Bulgari- 
ans. The British attempt to break open the way to the Dardanelles 
and establish a supply line to southern Russia had failed disastrously, 
and the Turks were holding on fairly well in Asia Minor. As for the 
French offensive of that spring, following the blood letting at Verdun, 
it had brought that nation to the verge of collapse. On April 16, Gen- 
eral Nivelle, who had succeeded Joffre as field commander, launched 
his offensive on the Aisne while the British attacked in the Arras 


sector. On Nivelle's throw of the dice France had invested most of 
its available military resources. The French gained ground, but the 
Germans fell back on a system of defenses in depth that drained the 
life out of Nivelle's attacks and accounted for almost 200,000 French 
casualties. The result was that Nivelle and two of his army command- 
ers were sacked; P6tain, the apostle of the defensive, took over the 
demoralized French armies at the front, and Foch replaced Petain 
as chief of the General Staff . The French thereupon decided that if 
they were to remain at war with Germany it would have to be purely 
on the defensive; the rank and file of the army had rebelled at all 
possibility of resuming the offensive. 

Soon after Pershing's arrival in Paris, the French made up their 
minds to inform him of the crisis in the French Army. The extent 
of its disaffection was undoubtedly the best-kept secret of the war; had 
it not been so jealously guarded the Germans might well have over- 
whelmed their enemy and marched on Paris with little hindrance. 

On June 22, Pershing was invited to the home of Herman H. Harjes, 
who managed the Paris branch of J. P, Morgan & Co. His fellow 
guest of honor was General Petain, whom he had met for the first 
time six days earlier at French headquarters at Compiegne. After din- 
ner P6tain took Pershing aside for a very private and confidential 
discussion. What Petain told him of French morale, Pershing wrote 
in his diary, was "disquieting" a mild word, indeed, considering what 
had been happening to the French Army, the bulwark of the Allied 
land forces. "Collective indiscipline" the official euphemism for mu- 
tinyhad spread to fifty-four combat divisions shortly after the failure 
of the Nivelle offensive on the Aisne. Soldiers were defying their of- 
ficers and abandoning their positions. Behind the front, gangs of de- 
serters beat up military police and railwaymen, waved red flags, sang 
revolutionary songs, and uncoupled engines to prevent trains from 
leaving for the front. A brigade of Russian troops, spurred on by 
Bolshevik agitators who seemed to have sprung out of the ground, 
rebelled against further fighting and had to be quarantined. 

It was Petain's first and hardest task to quell the mutiny and per- 
suade the soldiers to stay under arms. This he set about doing with 
patience and understanding. Courts-martial convened for the more 
flagrant mutineers brought in 23,000 verdicts of guilty, indicating the 
scope of the "indiscipline." Of this number, however, only fifty-five 
were actually shot by firing squads. 


Meanwhile, Petain improved the Army's living conditions, granted 
furloughs by the thousands, improved the rations, and himself visited 
many of the disaffected regiments to assure the troops that they would 
never again be regarded as expendable subhumans. Slowly the poilu 
began to recover his confidence in the men above him. P tain's salvage 
of the Army after the second Battle of the Aisne was an achievement 
equal to his defense of Verdun. Twice he had saved France, and as 
the British historian Cyril Falls wrote (in his The Great War, best 
and most recent of the one-volume histories of World War I), Pe- 
tain's "personal work" hi 1916-17 "should always be remembered 
when his long and troubled record is reviewed." Perhaps it does much, 
too, to explain Pershing's lifelong devotion to him. 

Not only had there been a collapse of morale among the soldiers 
at the front; there was a brooding hopelessness to be observed in the 
ordinary people behind the lines. Paris's great theaters, restaurants, 
and eaf 6s were thronged with pleasure seekers who had enriched them- 
selves in the war industries, but less privileged citizens were close to 
despair over the endless casualty lists, the food shortages, and other 
privations. Pershing remarked on the fact that "one frequently caught 
a troubled expression among the faces of the people hi the streets" 
visible even to a foreign general speeding along hi the rear seat of a 

"The shortage of food and the continuous air raids at night had a 
depressing effect," he observed. "From nearly every family some mem- 
ber was numbered among the dead, but there were few women in 
mourning. . . . The burden of three years of war, with no end hi 
sight, bore heavily upon the people and hidden forebodings filled many 
a heart." There was also considerable unrest and agitation among the 
workers hi the munitions factories which had been concentrated in 
the Paris area since the start of the war, some of it an echo of the 
political turbulence in Russia. 

Defeatism verging on treason had infected many of those in high 
places socially, politically, and financially. A discreet pro-German 
tendency was becoming almost fashionable in the aristocratic fau- 
bourgs, and industrialists dismayed at Communist activity among their 
workers were beginning to wonder whether the violent scenes in Petro- 
grad might not be duplicated in Paris if the war continued indefinitely. 
Major Harbord recorded that a number of American expatriates in 
Paris, though largely sympathetic to the French, warned against the 


corruption prevalent in and out of the government. One of these was 
James Stillman, the American financier who had lived in France off 
and on for half a century. "He suggests that we be very careful. Very 
careful! ! ! !" Harbord wrote of his talk with Stillman, who was refer- 
ring to the French military and civilian leaders. "He says the Latin 
mind has kinks and turns in it unknown to ours and the politics, 
politics, politics! ! !" 

Again, at a dinner at which he and Pershing were guests, Harbord 
wrote in his diary that "one of the Philadelphia Drexels" had sounded 
the strongest sort of warning against placing too much trust in the 
"better people" of France, cautioning that the country had "the most 
corrupt government on earth; that the power behind the throne was 
Caillaux [this was just before Georges Clemenceau, Caillaux's bitter- 
est enemy, came to power as Premier], whose wife, you remember, 
shot a man and figured four or five years ago in a sensational trial 
for the crime. ... He controls the banks, and through them the 
politicians, who nearly all owe him money. Caillaux is intensely pro- 
German, and perfectly willing to sell France to Germany. . . . 

"Our conversation ran to the German secret service, and how they 
seem to know all that goes on in France, and he told me that since 
the beginning of the war the Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia, who 
is the wife of the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and mother- 
in-law of the Imperial German Crown Prince, has lived at the Ritz 
Hotel here; that he saw her yesterday. She makes periodical trips to 
Switzerland. . . . Further, that in Geneva recently he himself saw 
the Princess de Polignac . . . sitting at a table with the German 
Princess Salm, whom she had come from Paris to visit. . . . Again 
that a French duchess who before the war was mistress of the First 
Secretary of the Austrian Embassy, makes periodical and frequent 
visits to him in a Swiss town, where he is meeting her from Vienna. 
And yet we wonder why Germany knows movements in France." 

Harbord also observed that there was almost a complete break- 
down in confidence between the military leaders and their govern- 
ment, that General Petain "scarcely conceals his contempt for the 
civil powers." 

A.E.F. Headquarters was understandably perturbed by the deplora- 
ble security which was supposed to safeguard the movement of the 
first U.S. troops to France. The First Division was then being con- 
voyed across the Atlantic. Harbord wrote hi his diary on June 19, 


"Three days ago I was handed a paper which told the date of sailing 
of our first convoy. I showed it to the Chief [Pershing] and to no 
one else and locked it in my safe. Yesterday Major Logan, my office 
assistant, came in from a visit to the French War Office, where he is on 
very good terms, and said they told him that the convoy had sailed . . . 
exactly the information I had so carefully put in my safe." 

Thus within a month after his arrival in Paris General Pershing 
and his staff were confronted with the previously unsuspected truth 
of the situationthat France was close to a military collapse and "there 
existed serious despondency among all classes," as Pershing later 
wrote. Much quicker than he had innocently believed on setting out 
from America, the Allies would have to be bolstered by an A.E.F. 
in fighting trim, not only to achieve a victory but to prevent defeat. 
"The map does not tell it all," he was quoted by Major Frederick 
Palmer, now the chief censor for the A.E.F. "It's the situation under 
the lines of the map. . . . With Russia in, Rumania in, and all the 
Allied armies in with their full manpower, they could not win. Appar- 
ently there is no hope of increasing Italian manpower, certainly not 
the French. Look at what is expected of us and what we have to do 
and what we have to start with! No army ready, no ships to bring over 
an army if we had one. How will we supply and transport an army 
across France after it is here?" 

He set about answering his own questions and resolving his doubts. 
A temporary A.E.F. Headquarters was established in a small two- 
story building at 31 Rue de Constantine, facing the Esplanade des 
Invalides and close to many of the French Government offices, on 
the left bank of the Seine. At the same time he moved out of the 
Hotel Crillon and "after a certain amount of deliberation" accepted 
the offer of the American financier Ogden Mills to occupy his elegant 
and spacious residence at 73 Rue de Varenne, where the Napoleonic 
Marshal Lannes once had lived. Major Harbord, several other mem- 
bers of his staff, and his aides-de-camp moved in with him. The 
garden, Harbord said, was "as charming and beautiful as a dream 
of Paradise." 

During those first months in Paris, Pershing made himself available 
to many persons not directly connected with the organization of an 
army to fight on the western fronteven the war correspondents, 
whom he later kept strictly at a distance. Wilbur Forrest, the United 
Press correspondent, wrote that Pershing's office on the Rue de Con- 


stantine was so cramped that it had room for only a deal table, three 
chairs, and "a few maps to lend military atmosphere." When a staff 
conference was held, the doors leading into a small garden outside 
his window had to be opened to accommodate the overflow. 

Forrest approached Pershing with a plan for sending reading ma- 
terial to the troops from America. His suggestion that it be sent post 
free brought a roar of disapproval from the general. "Hell!" the cor- 
respondent quoted Pershing as saying "Give them a chance to send 
this stuff postage-free and they'll burrow into their attics and send 
stuff they've been intending to throw out for years, an insult to the 
intelligence of the American soldier! What did they do when we were 
on the Mexican border? They sent truckloads of junk no self-respect- 
ing soldier would look at. Damned junkinsult to the intelligence of 
the American army!" 

The visiting Americans came hi all shapes and guises. One was 
Dorothy Canfield, now an established writer, whose father had been 
president of the University of Nebraska a quarter of a century before 
when Pershing had drilled its Cadet Corps. He took Miss Canfield to 
breakfast at the Crillon and they talked of the days when "she was 
my star pupil in mathematics." 

Other visitors, who wasted his time with pompous or ill-founded 
advice, got short shrift in the office on the Rue de Constantine. One 
day Major Palmer suggested that he should be more diplomatic after 
terminating an interview "somewhat abruptly." Pershing replied with 
a sardonic smile, "I didn't know the man with the flowing tie who 
came hi to tell me how to run my army was such an important person. 
It had been a busy day. He did not look to me as though he had 
much experience in commanding armies himself, so I was brief." 

During July, Pershing was still the darling of the Parisian street 
crowds, particularly when he appeared at the Fourth of July and 
July 14 (Bastille Day) celebrations. No doubt the safe landing of 
the First Division and the appearance of the first American troops on 
the boulevards of Paris contributed to the continuing warmth of his 
reception. For the Fourth of July festivities Pershing brought in a 
battalion of the 16th Infantry, part of the 8th Brigade, which he had 
commanded at the Presidio and on the Mexican border, and marched 
them up the Champs-filys6es to the Arc de Triomphe through wildly 
enthusiastic throngs. Later hi the day, at Picpus Cemetery, he laid a 
wreath on the tomb of Lafayette. The chief spokesman for the Ameri- 


cans at the cemetery observance was Major Charles E. Stanton, the 
A.E.F. paymaster, who was an orator of the old school and fluent in 
French. At the end of his speech, Major Stanton uttered the phrase 
headlined all over the world: "Lafayette, we are here!" Pershing then 
stepped forward and delivered a few sentences in his undistinguished 
oratorial style to the effect that what Major Stanton said went for him, 
too. Somehow, Stanton's fervent punch line was attributed to Per- 
shing, perhaps because the American correspondents thought it would 
have greater dramatic value coming, though falsely, from the mouth 
of the commander in chief. Anyone who knew Pershing, of course, 
could hardly have believed that such a ringing declaration could have 
been uttered by him, even under the stress of emotion. He was any- 
thing but a coiner of phrases, and, according to Major Palmer, when- 
ever public relations experts tried to put words in his mouth, he 
rebelled in no uncertain terms, saying, "This is not mine. It is not in 
character." Nor was public speaking anything but a torment to him. 
Almost apologetically, he told Harbord about his disastrous Mary 
Had a Little Lamb recitation as a schoolboy and explained how he 
"developed a diffidence that still haunts him on such occasions." 

At an open house that evening in the American Embassy, Pershing 
was less discomfited, Harbord observed, when "bevies of women got 
the General into a corner and pawed him over, until it is a wonder 
his head is not turned, though I have seen no signs of it." And there 
was more flattery at the dinner given by General Foch, the French 
Chief of Staff, at Armenonville later in the evening. A French opera 
star sang a song which she announced had been composed in honor 
of General Pershing, but which Harbord, peeking at the score, saw was 
inscribed: "Dedicated to President Wilson." Despite the flattery, the 
toasts, and the cheers, Harbord was uneasy over the future, particu- 
larly Pershing's future: "It is early to say what the General will do in 
the war. It might end before he has a chance. There is always a pos- 
sible tragedy in the career of every general who starts to serve our 
hysterical inefficient people. ... He has captured the fickle Paris 
crowd at any rate, and could be elected King of Paris tomorrow. . . ." 

At the Bastille Day celebration Pershing again was the most popular 
figurealmost the only one, as far as the crowds were concerned 
among those who sat in the presidential box at the Porte de Vin- 
cennes. Again, too, there was a worrisome glimpse of disaffection 
and division among the French people, which was particularly notice- 


able when the President of France began passing out decorations. A 
number of French officers present raised a groan of dismay when their 
President placed the Grand Cordon of the Legion of Honor around 
the neck of a major general who had been in disgrace since the 
retreat from Belgium in 1914 and hadn't been entrusted with a com- 
mand since then. The disgusted officers told Harbord that "this prized 
decoration . . . was brought about by political influence." 

The Americans had more than enough to worry about, however, in 
connection with their own war effort, if it was not to expire in a vapor- 
ing of Fourth of July speeches, toasts to Franco-American amity, and 
echoing choruses of "Over There." The A.E.F. couldn't make a move 
toward throwing its weight into the fight until the ponderous machin- 
ery back in Washington started turning over, and no one in the War 
Department had any clear idea of which buttons to push. The problem 
of how to send an army to Europe had never even been considered 
by the General Staff, whose function it was to plan for any eventuality. 
Shortly after his arrival in Paris, a high-ranking French officer had 
remarked to Pershing that the United States had no General Staff in 
the European sense, with plans for mobilization, campaigns, and 
operations already drawn up, and "it takes thirty years to organize a 
General Staff." Pershing replied in an excess of confidence, "It never 
took America thirty years to do anything." Now he had cause to 

When General Bliss, the acting chief of staff in General Scott's ab- 
sence in Russia, "went to look in the secret files where the plans to 
meet the situation that confronted us should have been found," Per- 
shing wrote, "the pigeon hole was empty. In other words, the War 
Department was face to face with the question of sending an army to 
Europe and found that the General Staff had never considered such a 
thing. No one in authority had any definite idea how many men might 
be needed, how they should be organized and equipped, or where 
the tonnage to transport and supply them was to come from." 

The War Department seemed to be in a state of paralysis, and it 
took days, sometimes weeks, to receive an answer to cables with re- 
quests or inquiries. Harbord commented harshly on the "long delays 
attendant on official action cablegrams consuming six days getting 
from the office of receipt to the office of action; the Acting Chief of 
Staff clinging to the short stub pencil of his casemate days and abjuring 
the use of a stenographer." In his diary, July 10, 1917, the chief of 


staff described the Rube Goldbergian improvisation necessary when 
the French General Staff would request information on some point 
from the A.E.F. staff. "We say we have not yet heard from the War 
Department. They then cable their Embassy and they send down the 
Attache* to the War Department, and he finds out things, and wires his 
people, so that repeatedly we get news affecting us through the French 
War Office before we get it from our own War Department, and some 
things we get only through the French. No cable ever reached us about 
the sailing of our first convoy. Four transports sail tomorrow, ac- 
cording to the French, but we know nothing about them." 

Almost every senior officer coming to Paris from Washington had 
tales to tell of the. Stateside confusion. The training camps were over- 
run, and recruits had no one to teach them the close-order drill which 
passed as preparation for fighting in the trenches of northern France. 
Sixty thousand troops, who should have been consigned to the A.E.F., 
were guarding railway bridges, tunnels, and other installations, so 
prevalent was the fear of spies and saboteurs. 

Presiding over the confusion was the elderly General Bliss, who 
lacked the ruthless efficiency of a real executive. His habit of slipping 
papers under his blotter no matter how urgently they might require 
a decision and hiding them there until he made up his mind about 
them was particularly distressing to his subordinates. 

On the evening of July 14, following the Bastille Day celebrations, 
Brigadier General Peyton C. March, who had come over to take com- 
mand of the 1st Artillery Brigade, gave the Headquarters mess a 
graphic description of conditions in the War Department. "He says 
the Mail and Record Room of the A.G.O. [Adjutant General's office] 
is piled six feet deep with papers not yet recorded, and that knowing 
there was a cable from General Pershing asking for him, it took six 
days to get it from the A.G.O. to the Chief of Staff. He says, and the 
statement was confirmed by others who were present, that the Chief of 
Staff writes everything out in long hand and does not use a stenogra- 
pher at all. Uses a stub of pencil and spends hours over things that 
ought to be handled in seconds. He predicts the roll of the big steam- 
roller about the day Major General Scott retires. He thinks it will be 
a clean sweep; if a steamroller can be said to sweep." 

Half a year later, as a matter of fact, the incisive and hardheaded 
General March became chief of staff in Washington and took the wheel 


of the "big steamroller," the approach of which he so confidently pre- 
dicted at 73 Rue de Varenne. 

Pershing had similar difficulty in obtaining the services of Colonel 
T. Bentley Mott, who had long been a military attache in Paris but 
who was then serving in the War Department, believing his knowl- 
edge of French military affairs and personalities would be invaluable. 
Colonel Mott, in his autobiography, told how he heard a rumor that 
Pershing had sent for him and went all over the War Department trying 
to confirm it. Nobody knew anything about the request. The colonel 
began a search for the relevant papers himself. He finally found the 
cablegrams from General Pershing, requesting his transfer to the A.E.F. 
staff, "all piled together (apparently without order or index) in a 
drawer" of the desk belonging to Captain Phil Sheridan, the son of the 
Civil War general. Colonel Mott thereupon arranged his own transfer 
and subsequently was assigned by Pershing to act as his liaison officer 
with General Petain's headquarters. 

It would be months before the War Department began functioning 

Meanwhile, Pershing had the gloomy privilege of studying the latest 
estimates of the opposing forces, compiled by the French General 
Staff as of June 30, 1917. These showed that on the western front the 
Allies had a total of 185 divisions: 115 French, sixty-three British, 
and seven Belgian. Opposing them were 155 German divisions. Ger- 
many, however, had seventy-seven divisions on the Russian and Ru- 
manian fronts, many of which were being or soon would be transferred 
to the western front with the collapse of the Russian military effort and 
the disintegration of the Rumanian armies. 

The one bright spot in the Allied picture was the success of the con- 
voy system in the Atlantic, an indication of which was the safe arrival 
of the dozen transports bearing the First Division at Saint-Nazaire. In 
April, Britain's darkest hour at sea, the German submarines had sunk 
545,252 gross tons of British shipping. With the institution of the con- 
voy system, the sinkings decreased to a monthly average of 265,000 
tons for Britain alone, and after April 1918 they declined to less than 
200,000 tons. The United States Navy threw 400 of its 110-foot sub 
chasers into the fight against the U-boats. The North Sea Mine Bar- 
rage was laid down to supplement the extensive mine laying in the 
Dover Straits. Troop and cargo ships were armed. Newly developed di- 
rection finders were used to triangulate the position of lurking U-boats 


and send Allied destroyers and sub chasers to dump depth charges on 

The result, crucial to the formation of the A.E.F., was that eighty- 
eight convoys, averaging a dozen troop transports, were dispatched 
from American ports to Brest, Liverpool, or Saint-Nazaire without 
losing a single soldier to the German submarines. 

A less hopeful facet of the Allied war effort was the evidence that 
Pershing and Harbord noted of friction between the French and Brit- 
ish commands on the western front. Three years of war had not only 
failed to eradicate the historic mistrust and suspicion between Briton 
and Gaul but in many ways seemed to have increased it. Each was 
inclined to accuse the other of letting down. 

Pershing first met Field Marshal Douglas Haig on July 20 at his 
Second Echelon Headquarters at Montreuil, ninety miles outside of 
Paris. Pershing, Harbord, and several other American officers were the 
British commander in chief's guests at dinner and on a lengthy in- 
spection of the various staff departments. Pershing was particularly im- 
pressed with Haig's open hostility toward the French and his comment 
on "the failure of the French to cooperate fully on various occasions." 
Haig's remarks, Pershing wrote, confirmed an ominous impression "I 
had long held that real teamwork between the two armies was almost 
totally absent." Equally chilling was the report of General Robertson, 
chief of the Imperial British Staff, who was also visiting Haig's head- 
quarters, that the British Army had suffered 175,000 casualties during 
the Arras offensive of April and May, which supported Nivelle's at- 
tacks in the Aisne sector, and that "preparations were under way at 
that moment for another attack on Passchendaele Ridge," which would 
be depressing news indeed to the British infantry. 

With the handsomely equine features of the upper-class Britisher 
and his beautifully trained cavalryman's mustache, Haig made a first- 
rate impression on Pershing, who believed that the visit established 
"cordial relations and good understanding" between their two head- 
quarters. Sir Douglas, as various memoirs have since shown, wasn't 
quite the beau ideal of British chivalry that he appeared to be. Earlier 
in the war, through his friendship with King George and some of the 
leading politicians, he managed to undermine the first commander in 
chief, Sir John French, and supersede him. Contemptuous of the 
French-he believed that Foch was much too voluble and that Petain 
lost his nerve under pressure he co-operated most reluctantly in any 


of their schemes. While the Nivelle offensive was being planned, he 
wrote in his diary that he and his chief of staff agreed that "we would 
rather be tried by court-martial than betray the army by agreeing to its 
being placed under the French." 

Harbord noted that his chief and Haig had much in common, both 
being cavalrymen with long colonial service, both with "strong, clear- 
cut features, firmly set jaw and direct gaze which we associate with 
chieftainship. . . . Each was coldly impersonal and sometimes impas- 
sivethe Scot preserving that certain reserve which seems to character- 
ize the high-bred Briton, the American the certain aloofness of his 
cadet days." 

No personal differences arose between Pershing and Haig during the 
war, none of the fireworks that attended Pershing's relations with many 
other Allied leaders, partly perhaps because of the physical separation 
of the British and American forces on the western front, with the 
French armies between them, but partly also because of the mutual 
respect that formed with each meeting. Each, perhaps, was also aware 
of the flintiness in the other's character. 

In various diary entries Haig recorded his impressions of Pershing. 
On July 20, 1917, their first meeting, "I was much struck by his quiet 
gentlemanly bearing." Subsequently he wrote, "Pershing is a good hon- 
est fellow," and "He is a fine type of man, honest, and apparently 
determined to do what he believes to be right." 

About the only thing that Haig found annoying in Pershing was his 
habitual tardiness. Harbord, the chief sufferer from that trait, wrote on 
a later occasion that "I was mortified by my General being late for din- 
ner." Sir Douglas would have none of that in his headquarters mess, 
"waited about three minutes and then took us in and we all sat down." 
Pershing was "nearly ten minutes late" in appearing at the table and 
"was evidently a little bit startled when he found that Sir Douglas 
had not waited for him." 

On July 26, in Paris, Pershing met the civil head of the British 
Government, Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who was as elo- 
quently Welsh as Haig was reticently Scottish. Breakfasting with Lloyd 
George at the Crillon, Pershing listened to a plea that because of the 
military crisis he should "assume part of the responsibility of deciding 
the course to be followed by the Allies." Pershing, mindful of the 
constitutional division of authority between the civilian and military 
branches of his government, replied that he could "join only in the 


consideration of the military aspects of the general situation." Later 
that day he met with Allied military leaders Petain and Foch for 
France, Robertson for Britain, Cadorna for Italy and listened to even 
more "pessimistic" talk. Pershing reported to his fellow generals that 
twenty days earlier he had cabled Washington a recommendation 
that "at least a million" American troops be sent to France by the 
following spring. He read the War Department's reply that "twenty- 
one divisions, comprising about 420,000 men" would be all that the 
United States could supply by June 15, 1918. Afterward Pershing 
cabled Washington: "To accelerate participation American forces and 
provide necessary transport for American army and movements of 
armies from secpndary fronts conference recommends that question 
of shipping be immediately taken up by Inter- Allied Commission." 

The question of shipping, "on which the success of the Allied mili- 
tary effort really hinged," as Pershing said, was to vex the British and 
the Americans almost until the end of the war. America didn't have 
nearly enough tonnage to transport its Expeditionary Force, even with 
a score of German ships which had been in American ports when war 
was declared and which were recommissioned under the United States 
flag by the fall of 1917. The British had the ships but intended to use 
them as leverage if that is not too mild a word to get what they 
wanted out of the United States . . . namely, American battalions to 
serve under their own command. 

But that suavely concealed attempt at extortion was not yet Per- 
shing's problem. The first order of business for the American com- 
mander in chief, once he had presented himself to the Allied leaders, 
learned their views on how his forces should be used, and then for- 
mulated his own decision on deployment without excessive deference 
to those views, was to prepare for his Army to move into the battle 
line. It was also necessary to organize a line of communications across 
France from the supply ports to the front. In the meantime, the divi- 
sions arriving from the United States must be trained and outfitted for 
combat, and thoroughly, no matter with what haste the French and 
British wanted to see them in the battle line. 

Major Frederick Palmer recalled a conversation he had with Per- 
shing one evening as he strolled with the general in the garden of the 
mansion at 73 Rue de Varenne. "He did not mean to let others fool 
him or to fool himself. In short, J.J.P. knew 'what he was up against'. 
... As the months passed without action by the American army, 


French propaganda in America, in its irresistible desire to hasten our 
blows to aid the French army, would insidiously urge on our public 
impatience to dissatisfaction which might demand a change of Ameri- 
can commanders; another man would lead the victory march of the 
army he had formed. But he said he would prepare it on such a sound 
plan as legacy to his successor that he would have fulfilled his mis- 
sion." Pershing must have been unusually depressed that night; he 
could never really conceive of being replaced, even through death. As 
the Secretary of War later learned, he could not be persuaded to nomi- 
nate a successor in the event he was killed or seriously wounded. The 
conversation with Palmer sounded very much like that of a man talk- 
ing to his possible future biographer (which Palmer was). 

Certainly there was not a touch of valedictory about the vigor with 
which Pershing began laying the foundation for the A.E.F.'s entry into 
battle. The British naturally wanted the U.S. forces to move in shoul- 
der to shoulder with their armies in Flanders, but Pershing decided 
"we could not be dependent upon facilities already heavily taxed to 
serve another army," and pointed out that "we would have largely 
displaced the French armies, whose location was based on the defense 
of Paris, to which above all things they were committed." Not the 
least of his concerns over moving in between the French and British 
armies was the possibility that "we might have found ourselves in a 
position that would have made it difficult to avoid amalgamation and 
service under a foreign flag, and that possibility alone was sufficient 
to preclude consideration of the Channel ports." 

Pershing therefore decided to take over the Lorraine front, between 
the Argonne Forest and the Vosges Mountains and including the 
Saint-Mihiel salient, which had long been imbedded in the Allied front 
like an infected appendix. In the final grouping of the Allied armies, 
the British would operate as the left wing, the French as the center, and 
the A.E.F. as the right wing. 

The most succinct explanation for this deployment was given by 
Pershing himself: "To the east the great fortified district east of 
Verdun and around Metz menaced central France, protected the most 
exposed portion of the German line of communications, that between 
Metz and Sedan, and covered the Briey iron region, from which the 
enemy obtained the greater part of the iron required for munitions and 
material. The coal fields east of Metz were also covered by these same 
defenses. A deep advance east of Metz, or the capture of the Briey 


region, by threatening the invasion of rich German territory in the 
Moselle Valley and the Saar Basin, thus curtailing her supply of coal 
or iron, would have a decisive effect hi forcing a withdrawal of Ger- 
man troops from northern France." 

In explanation of his decision to use France's South Atlantic ports 
to bring in supplies, he wrote, "The British were crowding the Channel 
ports and the French were exploiting the manufacturing center of Paris, 
so that the railroads of northern France were already much overtaxed. 
Even though the Channel ports might be used to a limited extent for 
shipments through England, the railroads leading eastward would 
have to cross British and French zones of operation, thus making the 
introduction of a line of communications based on ports and railways 
in that region quite impracticable. 

"The problem confronting the American Expeditionary Force was 
then to superimpose its rail communications on those of France where 
there would be the least possible disturbance to the arteries of supply 
of the two great Allied armies already in the field. This would require 
the utmost use of those lines of the existing French railroad system 
that could bear an added burden. ... It was estimated that these 
with the collateral lines available, after considerable improvement, 
could handle an additional 50,000 tons per day, required for an army 
of 2,000,000 men. The lines selected, therefore, were those leading 
from the comparatively unused South Atlantic ports of France to the 
northeast where it was believed the American Armies could be em- 
ployed to the best advantage." 

The ports of Saint-Nazaire, La Pallice, and Bassens were designated 
for use of the American Army's supply system, \vith Nantes, Bor- 
deaux, and Pauillac available in an emergency. "For all practical pur- 
poses," Pershing pointed out, "the American Expeditionary Forces 
were based on the American continent. Three thousand miles of ocean 
to cross ... the quantity of ship tonnage that would be available 
then unknown and a line of communications by land 400 miles long 
from French ports to our probable front presented difficulties that 
seemed almost insurmountable as compared with those of our Allies." 

To handle the supervision of all these activities, Pershing created 
five sections of his General Staff at A.E.F. Headquarters, with G-l as- 
suming administrative functions; G-2, intelligence; G-3, operations; 
G-4, supply; and G-5, training. 

That Headquarters staff, hi the summer of 1917, attracted a num- 


her of men, many of them expatriates, who were eager for the glamour 
of a uniform without too much attendant risk. Others felt that their 
social and lingual qualifications entitled them to a majority or a colo- 
nelcy, that the A.E.F. Headquarters needed a certain tone and sophisti- 
cation that couldn't be supplied by mere soldiers. Pershing would have 
none of it. He had worked too hard for rank to have it dispensed to 
every social butterfly that fluttered into the Rue de Constantine. 

One of the many applicants was the elegant James Hazen Hyde, 
whose parties had once been the talk of New York society. One party, 
in fact, had indirectly resulted in his expatriation. Hyde was the son of 
the founder of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, in which he in- 
herited the controlling interest in 1899. A cosmopolite and a leader 
of the porcine playboys of the Edwardian era, he gave his extravagant 
and fateful masquerade at Sherry's the night of January 31, 1905, 
with guests and decor a reconstruction of the court of Louis XV, with 
Mme. Gabrielle Rejane as the centerpiece and Franklin D. Roosevelt 
among the young stags. The newspapers estimated the cost of the 
party at $75,000 to $200,000. As a result of that publicity, young 
Hyde was forced to "mutualize" his insurance company and give up 
control over its management. The state of New York, meanwhile, be- 
gan investigating the methods by which the big insurance companies 
piled up such tremendous profits, their interlocking directorates and 
other practices soon to be eliminated. Before the investigation ended, 
Hyde boarded ship for France and there he was still living when Per- 
shing arrived. 

Now he wanted a commission in the American Army in the worst 
way and was able, to summon considerable influence on his behalf, 
but Pershing turned him down. 

Three distinctly unmilitary characters who did manage to attach 
themselves to headquarters were Winthrop Chanler, William Eustis, 
son of a former ambassador to France, and Richard Peters. They were 
taken on "by subordinates without Pershing's knowledge," according 
to Major Palmer, but they more than earned their keep. "These three 
musketeers were of the same world, with no military experience. Chan- 
ler and Eustis were over fifty, and Peters past retiring age. They were 
in private soldier's uniforms, living at the best hotel, and wearing white 
armbands with 'Interpreter' in large letters. . . ." One function at 
which they excelled was taking charge of visiting firemen, who ranged 
from "the man of political eminence to the woman who wanted to 


plant flower gardens to beautify the front for the soldiers." They also 
"heightened the charm of the French countryside" for junketing sight- 
seers, whose letters of introduction could not be disregarded, such as 
lady novelists, congressmen, French senators, society women, and in- 
dustrialists from the States. 

Two months after Pershing's arrival in Paris the glamour and ex- 
citement which had attracted such people to his headquarters, not to 
mention the cheering of the sidewalk crowds every time he made a 
public appearance, began to lessen. People were beginning to put a 
question mark after the refrain "The Yanks Are Coming." In his 
diary for August 18, Chief of Staff Harbord, now a colonel, re- 
marked on the "inevitable reaction" from the early enthusiasm over the 
United States entry into the war, "due to misconceptions of our state 
of preparedness." 

It now appeared that the first American divisions would not be able 
to move into the line until "at least February . . . midwinter in a 
severe climate ... so much participation from America cannot be 
expected before Spring." Harbord feared that clamor in America and 
Europe would "force us in before we are ready" and foresaw that 
Pershing "will have to set hard his projecting underjaw and stand 
firmly braced." This proved to be anything but an overstatement of 
the pressure soon to be brought on the American commander in chief. 

9. Black Jack and His Nursemaids 

Inevitably, under the pressure of responsibility and the necessity for 
making decisions affecting millions of lives, Pershing became a harder 
and grimmer man. Those who had known him since his days as a young 
officer, one of the "Three Green Peas," could see the hardening proc- 
ess develop almost perceptibly in the summer of 1917. He had al- 
ways been a man of notably firm character, but what had merely been 
substantial now became granitic. He was to be responsible for the 
lives of hundreds of thousands of men, and he did not intend to allow 
human frailty, neglect, or inefficiencyhis own or any of his officers' 
to interfere with his task. Those closest to him had observed that 
the death of his wife and three daughters had changed him into a 
man who rarely thought of anything but his work. The tragedy at the 
Presidio hit him harder than all but a few persons knew; his only 
escape from brooding over it lay in the incessant demands of his posi- 
tion, which in that sense were a blessing. His private sorrows, instead 
of making him more sympathetic to other people's weaknesses, only 
hardened him. 

Perhaps it was the effort to keep his grief and loneliness walled in, 
dictated by the pride of a man who abhorred any display of emo- 
tion, particularly his own, which contributed to making him what 
newspaper correspondents called a "cold arrogant fish" and his troops 
"a typical brasshat" (or something a lot more pungent). Pershing 
simply was unable to trade on his emotions to win the devotion of 
those who served under him; there was something false and servile 
about a man who commanded affection through actorish tricks or 
public heroics, in his view, and a democratic army ought to enter 


battle as coldly determined to do its duty as he was to do his. The 
mechanics, not the psychology of command engrossed him. 

There were only two discernible occasions on which his facade of 
impersonality crumbled momentarily and something of his inner tor- 
ment displayed itself. On both occasions the men with him were close 
friends, Colonel John G. Quekemeyer, his aide-de-camp, and Charles 
G. Dawes, an intimate since his University of Nebraska days. 

Long after the war, Colonel Quekemeyer told friends of an incident 
that occurred one night after a grueling and disappointing day when 
his forces were engaged on the western front. They were driving to- 
ward the front. Suddenly Pershing buried his face in his hands, and 
Colonel Quekemeyer heard him brokenly muttering his dead wife's 
name, "Frankie . . . Frankie ... my God, sometimes I don't know 
how I can go on. . . ." 

On an earlier occasion related by Dawes in his diary, he and Per- 
shing were driving across Paris one afternoon when "an instance of 
telepathy occurred." Dawes's son Rufus had drowned five years be- 
fore. Each happened to recollect his personal loss at the same time, 
Dawes wrote, and "each was in tears. All John said was, 'Even this 
war can't keep it out of my mind.' " 

There were other occasions which demonstrated that Pershing had 
not managed to stamp out all recognition that he shared a common 
humanity, but they grew rarer in the thinned-out atmosphere of power 
and intrigue. Frederick Palmer, who had known him since the turn 
of the century, maintained there was a "warm human personal Per- 
shing" whose facets he had long been aware of but which appeared 
"less and less frequently as he became absorbed in the machine he 
created and drove; and, in the lapses, the smile the more quickly faded, 
the hand drew back more quickly behind the gray stone wall of his 
West Point training." 

With this sort of rigidity of manner, this all but impenetrable armor 
of reserve and reticence, Pershing was fortunate in his choice of James 
G. Harbord, an intuitive and understanding man, as his first chief of 
staff. The relation of a commanding general and his chief of staff has 
often been compared to a marriage. A conflict of temperaments can 
ruin it. The commander has the rank and the power and wins most of 
the glory but must depend on his chief of staff, in the wifely role, 
to keep his house in order and his official family living and working in 
harmony. Despite the difference in their stations, they have to be able 


to talk freely, almost as equals. What Harbord called his "native diffi- 
dence" aside, Pershing allowed his chief of staff to argue with him, talk 
back if necessary, and give his honest opinions. There was no barrier 
of rank and privilege between them. When necessary, both men would 
raise their voices and pound the table and the fact that Pershing per- 
mitted this freedom of thought and manner in his junior spoke well 
for him as a general and as a man. 

No man in the A.E.F., with the possible exception of Dawes, got 
to know Pershing better than Harbord. After three months of close 
association, this was Harbord's uninhibited opinion of his chief, con- 
fided to his diary on August 18, 1917: 

"General Pers^ng is a very strong character. He has a good many 
peculiarities, such as I suppose every strong man accustomed to com- 
mand is apt to develop. He is very patient and philosophical under 
trying delays from the War Department. He is playing for high stakes 
and does not intend to jeopardize his winning by wasting his standing 
with the War Department over small things-relatively unimportant, 
though very annoying as they occur. He is extremely cautious, very 
cautious, does nothing hastily or carelessly. He spends much time re- 
writing the cables and other papers I prepare for him, putting his own 
individuality into them. 

"He thinks very clearly and directly; goes to his conclusions directly 
when matters call for decision. He can talk straighter to people when 
calling them down than anyone I have seen. I have not yet experienced 
it, though. 

"He has naturally a good disposition and a keen sense of humor. 
He loses his temper occasionally, and stupidity and vagueness irritate 
him more than anything else. He can stand plain talk, but the staff 
officer who goes in with only vagueness where he ought to have cer- 
tainty, who does not know what he wants, and fumbles around, has 
lost time and generally gained some straight talk. 

"He does not fear responsibility, with all his caution. He decides 
big things more quickly than he does trivial ones. Two weeks ago, 
without any authority from Washington, he placed an order one after- 
noon for $50,000,000 worth of airplanes, because he thought Wash- 
ington too slow, and did not cable the fact until too late for Washington 
to countermand it, had they been so disposed, which they were not. 
He did it without winking an eye, as easily as though ordering a post- 
age stamp and it involved the sum which Congress voted for National 


Defense at the beginning of 1898 just after the Maine was blown 
up, and which we all then considered a very large transaction. " 

To his chief of staff his greatest fault was a complete lack of time 
sense. "He is without it, as utterly as a color-blind person is without 
a sense of color, or a deaf man is without the sound of music. He is 
most trying in that respect. An American untried major general may 
not keep a Field Marshal waiting; or be an hour late to an Ambassa- 
dor's dinner; and those of us around him are forever his guardians and 
trying to get him over the line on time. He has a similar lack of com- 
prehension as to guests, and with dinner prepared for ten may bring 
home sixteen." 

Pershing's reckless dispensing of hospitality almost drove the chef 
at the headquarters mess out of his mind, Harbord said, citing a 
dinner party he had given for "some people who had been kind to us." 
Pershing announced that the total sitting down to dinner would be 
fourteen. The following day he was absent from the house at 73 Rue 
de Varenne but "casting together the number we knew he had invited 
it developed that nineteen were coming." 

Robert Lee Bullard, who had known Pershing since West Point, 
came over for an A.E.F. command and soon was designated to take 
over the First Division. Sizing Pershing up at their first meeting in a 
number of years, Bullard thought him "ambitious, fit, intent upon his 
purpose, vigorous, firm, thoughtful, discreet, impersonal and dispas- 
sionate in demanding obedience, creating and holding confidence by 
this very efficiency, but nowhere arousing enthusiasm except upon suc- 
cess; not a personal leader; admirable but not magnetic. . . . One of 
his most marked characteristics was directness and simplicity of action. 
He has done his greatest deeds as simply and naturally as a man 
washes his face when he rises in the morning." 

The impression of the men serving under him, who saw him, if at 
all, only from a distance that made him as remote as some visiting 
maharaja, was closer to Bullard's estimate than those of his staff. The 
troops glimpsed a beautifully tailored, tough-looking officer with West 
Point written all over him, whose probing eyes seemed to take in every 
detail of their uniforms and equipment but had no interest in the men 
attached to them. One of the sharper memories of the A.E.F. was of 
whole divisions standing in ranks, in the worst weather, waiting an 
hour or more for the commander in chief to appear and give them 
the cold-eyed once-over-and who was Black Jack Pershing to keep 


thousands of fellow Americans standing on a parade ground swept by 
winter winds? They didn't know, of course, that he would keep the 
King and Queen of Belgium, the chief of the French General Staff, 
and the commander of the British armies waiting the same way, though 
under more comfortable circumstances. In time, Pershing won the re- 
spect of the A.E.F., but he was never beloved. 

It was his rather impossible ambition to make every American sol- 
dier the model of bearing and discipline, and he expected draftees and 
National Guardsmen to have the snap and precision of West Point 
cadets within a few months. In October 1917 he issued an order 
whose requirements were all but impossible of achievement: "The 
standards for the, American army will be those of West Point. The 
rigid attention, the upright bearing, attention to detail, uncomplain- 
ing obedience to instruction required of the cadet will be required of 
every officer and soldier of our armies in France." 

"Every private a Pershing" seemed to be the commander in chief's 
motto. In his mind's eye, Pershing saw whole future armies turned 
out like himself and his West Point classmates of 1886. "When you 
stumbled upon a lost American doughboy in a God-forsaken hamlet," 
as Frank Simonds (They Won the War) wrote, "his bearing, the set of 
his tunic, his salute, all authentically recalled the general who sat hi 

The Sam Browne belt, though purely ornamental, was decreed for 
all officers in the A.E.F. (And, as a footnote to social history, the 
women of America had to give up their high-buttoned shoes to con- 
serve leather for that purpose; the kid boot never made a come- 
back after the war as skirts rose to the flapperish level.) The belt 
generally was detested, at home and abroad, but Pershing insisted on 
it for his officers, even after Secretary of War Baker pointedly wrote 
him that the belt had been abolished in the States and described how 
officers, including a general, cheered when they were removed on a 
troop transport on which Baker returned to America. General March, 
as chief of staff, ordered all Sam Browne belts surrendered at the gang- 
way when returning transports docked in American ports. But, as 
Baker observed, Pershing ruled over the American forces in France 
with a dictatorial authority that had never been given any other Ameri- 
can general, and Pershing would not be swayed on this issue. 

All his obstinacy would soon be needed in dealing with the French 
and British, both determined to get their share of American troops, 


with small consideration for Pershing's aspiration to build a separate 
American Army. It was his opinion and that of most Americans that 
the doughboy would not fight enthusiastically under foreign command. 
Many in the A.E.F. had some proportion of German blood and 
might resent having to fight Germans under French officers; likewise, 
those of Irish descent, embittered by the ruthless suppression of the 
Easter rebellion in Dublin, would hardly be eager to serve under Brit- 
ish command. Yet it must be noted that American units which served 
under French and British command showed up quite as well in combat 
as those directly under American leadership. 

The French made their move first. As descendants of Lafayette and 
the French troops who fought in aid of the American Revolution, 
they considered that they had a sentimental priority on American grati- 
tude and designated themselves as patrons, mentors, and counselors 
of the American Army. Patiently and persistently they attempted to 
infiltrate American Headquarters, and politely and diplomatically they 
were turned away. First they tried to palm off their revered but declin- 
ing Marshal Joffre on the Americans, who naturally wondered why he 
was being wished on them when the French themselves desperately 
needed all their available talent to revivify their faltering armies. Yet 
Joffre and his staff were fondly propelled at the Americans with all 
the persistence of a French matchmaker intent on earning her fee. 
They were "almost inevitable guests wherever we found ourselves," 
Harbord remarked. Pershing, he added, had "no thought of engaging 
any nurse for himself, not even so eminent a one as Joffre." 

When the failure to attach Joffre to the American command was 
apparent, the French attempted to saddle the A.E.F. with "tactical 
advisers"~planners and instructors, actually-but these, too, were po- 
litely brushed off. 

Much more subtle were the efforts of General P6tain to guide and 
influence Pershing. The French commander invited the American to 
observe the attack of the Second French Army astride the Meuse. En 
route they stopped to inspect a number of American First Division 
units billeted in various villages in the Second Army's rear areas. Per- 
shing was so exhilarated by the prospect of visiting the fighting front 
that he played a small practical joke on Petain, always a mark of 
favor among Americans, though P6tain may not have realized it. The 
two generals had climbed into a haymow to inspect the Americans' 
quarters in one village. "I happened to stand apart near a neatly made 


bunk," Pershing recalled, "and in the dim light Petain mistook me for 
the sergeant hi charge. He asked me how we liked our billets and a 
number of other questions about our life hi France, which I answered 
respectfully, playing the part the best I could. He did not know the 
difference until he was told by some of the amused members of his 
staff after we had descended." At Souilly they stopped at a French 
military hospital where Petain conferred the Croix de Guerre on a 
nurse who had been blinded by a shell splinter and introduced her to 
General Pershing. The blinded young woman was so overjoyed by the 
visit, Pershing believed, that she "had entirely forgotten her pain" a 
rather common delusion among generals visiting military hospitals. 

On August 20, at the command post of the French XVI Corps, 
Pershing watched the successful attacks on Le Mort Homme and Hill 
304, with "the battlefield before us like a panorama." He was par- 
ticularly fascinated by the Foreign Legion, "in which I had become 
interested many years before from reading Ouida's Under Two Flags" 
going into action across the Meuse. That afternoon he held a reunion 
with Major General Corvisart, the commander of the XVI Corps, 
whom he had met as a military observer in Manchuria a dozen years 
before. The two men discussed how old friends and acquaintances 
had been divided by war. Pershing asked about Major Von Etzel, the 
senior German attache, and Corvisart replied, "I have just beaten him 
today. He is commanding a division opposite me." 

Pershing considered his trip with Petain "agreeable" and "instruc- 
tive." The American, on the way back to Paris, mentioned the fact 
that an artist named Jonas had just finished his portrait for publica- 
tion in U Illustration. "Don't let them publish it!" Petain warned him. 
"Every officer whose portrait by Jonas has appeared in that journal 
has been relieved from his command." While denying that he was 
superstitious, Pershing recorded that he "immediately forbade the pub- 
lication of the portrait, and to this day it has never appeared." 

His chief of staff was not too impressed by the surface amiability 
between the two commanders in chief. "Both are strong men, ambi- 
tious, of the same age; neither of them averse to power; each in a sense 
ruthless hi going to his ends." Harbord foresaw trouble in the French 
air of superiority in the presence of the American tyros. "For the pres- 
ent the French attitude," he wrote in his diary August 21, just after 
returning with Pershing from the Second Army visit, "is at times very 
distinctly patronizing. We are doubtless looked upon somewhat as 


amateurs, though I believe the average professional level in our com- 
missioned ranks is higher than theirs." 

Recently, Harbord said, Petain had forwarded "several suggestions 
that have been distinctly patronizing and in which he has played all 
around the word 'order' without quite using it. He will do well to omit 
that word from his repertoire. Our General is very cautious, thinks 
very deeply; takes no false steps; knows his ground, and he knows he 
holds the whiphand, if one may use that word in speaking of relations 
with an ally. . . . The General is going to suggest to him that their 
dealings had better generally be direct and personal instead of by corre- 

Pershing himself was growing irked by the French practice of taking 
up matters with the United States War Department when they could 
not obtain satisfaction from him, and he was none too pleased by 
Washington's willingness to go along with this procedure. He shot off 
an angry cable after the French War Office asked for his views on 
A.E.F. organization, having already taken up the matter in Washing- 
ton through High Commissioner Andr6 Tardieu. "Have replied that 
my views would always be sent my own superiors through proper 
channels," he cabled the chief of staff. "Seems unwise that our General 
Staff should permit such inquiries to be made, at least through a Civil 
Commissioner." The French, he later commented, had "the idea, at 
least temporarily, of handling our business directly with Washington." 

Pershing was also disturbed by the present necessity of having a con- 
siderable portion of his growing forces indoctrinated in the French 
methods of warfare, which he believed to place an undue emphasis 
on the defensive. The British training methods, on the other hand, 
appealed to him "very strongly" because "they taught their men to be 
aggressive and undertook to perfect them in hand-to-hand fighting 
with the bayonet, grenade and dagger." His aim was to instill the prin- 
ciples of "open warfare" in his troops, holding that armies burrowed 
into trench systems might stave off defeat but would never achieve 

Some critics termed his beliefs "the cult of the rifle," considering 
it a throwback to the misplaced enthusiasms of 1914, when generals 
on both sides hoped to win a quick decision in the field and had to draw 
back, appalled by the heavy toll taken by machine guns, mobile ar- 
tillery, and other defensive armament. He was unimpressed by the 
French and British conviction that "developments since 1914 had 


changed the principles of warfare" and their outspoken pessimism over 
whether snapshooting American riflemen could prevail against the 
interlocked chains of German machine-gun nests on terrain generally 
favorable to the defensive. 

Somewhat derisively, Pershing wrote that the French could be ex- 
pected to take an unaggressive view since "nationally, unlike the Ger- 
mans, they had been on the defensive, at least in thought, during the 
previous half century." The British also, "to a large extent," had suc- 
cumbed to a fondness for the defensive. What he heavily discounted, 
with a newcomer's ebullience, was the fact that France and Britain, not 
to mention Russia, Italy, and Rumania, had seen whole armies swal- 
lowed up in futite offensives earlier in the war. The surviving Allies 
had then resigned themselves to a static war of attrition in which, pre- 
sumably, the last living soldier would emerge from the last lice-infected 
dugout as the victor. 

Pershing was determined that his troops should not absorb so much 
of the trench-bound philosophy of the Allies that they would lack the 
"aggressiveness to break through the enemy's lines and the knowledge 
of how to carry on thereafter," As a veteran cavalryman he conceived 
of a properly conducted war as a decisive clash of arms immediately 
followed by pursuit of the beaten army. Such a conclusive point could 
not be reached through one trench system battering at another with 
long-range weapons, trench raids, and purely local offensives aimed 
at reducing a salient. Reliance on the rifle would restore the power of 
maneuver and end the deadlock, he believed. His instructions to 
United States training officers were emphatic on this point: "All in- 
struction must contemplate the assumption of a vigorous offensive." 
He never wavered in his conviction that "victory could not be won by 
the costly process of attrition, but it must be won by driving the enemy 
out into the open and engaging him in a war of movement." The price 
would be predictably high, but it must be paid. 

It was his determination to train his forces his own way, rather than 
forwarding them immediately in company and battalion lots to serve 
beside British and French units hi quiet sectors, that brought on his 
long struggle with the Allied leaders. So far he had managed to con- 
tend with Joffre and Petain. In the fall of 1917, however, he had to 
deal with two much more accomplished pleadersGeneral Ferdinand 
Foch and Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau. 

One of the few things that Foch, the Catholic, and Clemenceau, 


the violent anticlerical, could agree on was that Pershing must be won 
over. They differed on how this must be done. Foch, the soldier, was 
inclined to be politic. Clemenceau, the politician, tended to be mili- 
tant. In this paradox, which should have delighted any Frenchman 
still capable of appreciating irony, Foch was undoubtedly the wiser 
man. Any ally should be coerced rather than bludgeoned if his use- 
fulness is not to be impaired. Clemenceau, fortunately, had talents 
other than the diplomatic. 

The history of France glitters with imposing figures, but few have 
exuded, particularly at his advanced age, the kinetic energy of Clemen- 
ceau. More than any other man he roused his country from its trance 
of defeatism after becoming Premier in the fall of 1917; the whole 
nation was warmed back to life by his incandescent hatred of the en- 
emy and his determination that France should not slide to ruin in a 
mass conviction that defeat was inevitable. He had old-fashioned 
ideas about France's great destiny. While P6tain was completing the 
restoration of the morale of the field armies, Clemenceau was operat- 
ing on the body politic, lopping off half-hearted ministers and corrupt 
bureaucrats. He made the French people believe once again that 
France was worth fighting for. 

As two men who were unalloyed patriots first and Allies second, 
Clemenceau and Pershing were bound to become adversaries. Cle- 
menceau was continually angered by the way Pershing "kept putting 
things off" with his "tightlipped smile." Pershing, he thought, merely 
"owed it to the romantic side of America's intervention to form a 
self-contained American army." About all that Clemenceau conceded 
to Pershing as a military leader was an invincible stubbornness, and 
"the more I insisted the more he resisted. So much so that we often 
parted with smiles that on both sides concealed gnashings of teeth." 
The "Tiger of France" had no patience with America's own aspira- 
tions on entering the war; its President was a giddy idealist, and its 
people should be eager to fling a whole generation of its youth into the 
Allied trenches without asking questions. Pershing and his generals 
were supremely selfish in withholding their divisions until they were 
properly trained and organized under their own flag. "The fanatical 
determination of the great chiefs of the American Army to delay the 
arrival of the star-spangled banner on the battlefield . . . was costing 
us, and our Allies too, seas of blood. Their fierce super-patriotism 
refused to listen, and they wanted nothing less than a heaven-born 


strategical coup that should enable them to begin and end the war 
spectacularly with one stroke." 

Clemenceau was a man of parts teacher, physician, author, drama- 
tist, newspaper editor (in which capacity he had vigorously supported 
the cause of Captain Dreyfus), senator, duelist, above all the perpet- 
ual gadfly of French politics, celebrated for decades as the "wrecker 
of Cabinets." He often expressed "supreme contempt for the human 
race," and once declared "I am against all Governments, including 
my own." He spoke English with a strong American accent, having 
lived in the United States around the time of the Civil War, and Gen- 
eral Bultard noted that during a visit to the First Division he tossed 
off whiskey without grimacing as his companions did. He spoke to 
Bullard of his great admiration for Andrew Jackson, whom he some- 
what resembled, both as a fighter of duels and as an aggressive politi- 
cian. Clemenceau admitted the resemblance to Bullard, but added 
with a touch of envy, "Ah, yes, but I never fought a duel on horse- 

When the French Government fled from Paris during the crisis of 
the first Battle of the Marne, Clemenceau was editing and publishing 
L'Homme Libre. Naturally he stayed in Paris, and his front pages 
were plastered with denunciations of President Poincar6 as a weak- 
ling and Premier Viviani as a fool and idiot. The government ordered 
his paper suppressed. When it was permitted to publish again, Cle- 
menceau renamed it UHomme Enchaine (The Man in Chains), and 
Paris roared with approving laughter. Thereafter, the government re- 
frained from molesting his paper. Clemenceau was named Prime Min- 
ister simply because the desperate situation required a political 
desperado, and because, as an American correspondent wrote, "he 
had successively overthrown previous ministries, torn the reputation 
of every statesman into such tatters that President Poincare, although 
he hated Clemenceau just as cordially as Clemenceau detested him, 
had no choice but to call the old fighter back to power." Few men 
command the invective to make two enemies in one short sentence, 
but Clemenceau accomplished the feat when he declared, "Briand 
knows nothing and understands everything, but Poincare knows ev- 
erything and understands nothing." 

Pershing first became aware of Clemenceau's capacity as a one- 
man wrecking crew when, still only a senator, the Frenchman showed 
up on an inspection tour of the United States First Division, then 


commanded by General Sibert. Clemenceau created consternation by 
demanding to know why the division wasn't fighting at the front and 
insisted "it was not so much a question of troops being ready as it was 
of giving relief to the Allies." Senator Clemenceau refused to be im- 
pressed with the statement that the division was only partially trained 
and "went on to say that America had now been in the war several 
months and the French people were wondering when they expected 
to take an active part." To Pershing, who would soon have to deal 
with Clemenceau as the political leader of France, "it was quite out of 
place for M. Clemenceau to make any such demand." He was also 
alarmed by the fact that Clemenceau's visit "left the impression that 
the French were inclined to dictate what disposition we should make 
of our units. In many of their suggestions it was easy to see the possi- 
bility of amalgamation lurking in the background." 

General Foch, soon to be made a marshal of France, resembled 
Clemenceau only in his fiery patriotism and his determination that 
the country would not yield to Germany. He was a military monk, who 
had devoted all his life and thoughts to the Army and to often grandi- 
ose conceptions of strategy. He was a leading apostle of General 
Grandmaison's teachings that the French Army should be thrown into 
a headlong offensive the moment it was attacked by the Germans, a 
school of thought which General Fuller (A Military History of the 
Western World) has characterized as "rivalled only by the dervishes 
of the Sudan." When the war began, he was commanding the XX 
Corps of the Second Army and immediately advanced hi accord with 
his own theories, but was rocked back by a German counterattack. 
He subsequently became Joffre's deputy, then commander of the 
northern group of armies as the Germans and the Allies raced to ex- 
tend their lines to the North Sea and the Channel ports. A year after the 
war began he was privately conceding that "the violent onset, aiming 
at a breakthrough, has not given the results we expected of it." The 
bloody but fruitless battles of 1915 and 1916 did little to enhance his 
prestige, and by the spring of 1917 he was assigned to take charge 
of an officers' school at Senlis a disheartening comedown for a man 
who had commanded a group of armies. At Petain's suggestion he was 
dusted off and appointed chief of the General Staff when Petain 
moved up to commander in chief. 

Foch and Clemenceau had never seen eye to eye, although it was 
the latter who appointed Foch commandant of the Ecole de Guerre 


before the war. Foch, knowing Clemenceau's anticlerical tendencies, 
told him, "I have a brother who is a Jesuit," to which Clemenceau 
replied, "I don't give a ." Clemenceau regarded him as a suspi- 
ciously supple and overly intellectual soldier, and remarked that Foch 
"had the grave defect of being unable to endure the civil powerwhen 
he did not need its support." 

The American liaison officer, Colonel Mott, who knew both gen- 
erals well, considered that Petain operated behind an "impenetrable 
mask" and "habitually screened his intense timidity behind a silence 
which often became uncomfortable" but that Foch had "a wider vi- 
sion. ... He belonged to no epoch; he would have been as much at 
home maneuvering the army of Caesar or Hannibal as he was in a 
campaign where* aeroplanes soared and artillery fired at ten-mile 

Whereas Clemenceau was inclined to bluster at Pershing, and P6- 
tain to work on him through the friendship that had formed between 
them, Marshal Foch, hi his efforts to explain the French viewpoint 
on absorbing American troops, was both gentler and more honest. 
Foch, according to Colonel Mott, who acted as interpreter at many 
of their sessions, "would try Pershing out on different lines to get his 
reaction and find the best approach. As time went on he came to under- 
stand the fire and generosity that were hidden beneath a grim exterior 
which, at first, had seemed to him, as to many others, like an unre- 
lenting obstinacy." There were "heartbreaking difficulties," said Colo- 
nel Mott as they tried to understand each other over the barrier of 
differing languages. "Their minds could haltingly get into contact, but 
their souls would be groping in the void." 

No matter how much good will was mustered on both sides, or 
how patiently they strove to understand each other, Pershing had to 
fight continuously for a self-contained American Army almost until 
the day of armistice. He had to endure a conflict of wills with the 
French, and later the British, at the same time he was laboring to 
train, organize, and supply the A.E.F. and then direct it in battle. It 
has been remarked that Pershing did more fighting in the months be- 
fore the First American Army moved into the line than during its 
several months of actual combat as a unit. Much was made of his 
occasional bursts of temper over the Allied conference tables. The 
wonder was that they occurred so seldom. 

The problem of supply, with bottlenecks at both the American and 



French ports, with purchasing boards running rampant, with co-ordi- 
nation applied only after the failure of various conflicting procure- 
ment systems had proved disastrous, was a constant vexation. The 
breakdown of supply was well illustrated by the fact that Pershing in- 
tended to have a ninety-day reserve of food and equipment in his 
depots and warehouses but soon was forced to settle for a forty-five- 
day reserve. If the Americans were amateurs at war, as Europeans 
maintained, they were even more innocent of knowledge on how to 
supply an army on another continent. 

In the early months of the A.E.F., supplies piled up on the docks 
of French ports partly because there was little native labor available 
for stevedoring and partly because the American quartermasters sim- 
ply didn't know what to do with them. Along the line of communica- 
tions northeastward from the supply ports there was chaos resembling 
that across the Isthmus of Panama when construction was started on 
the canal. Back home it was just as bad. Hoboken looked like Tampa 
in 1898, with the lack of shipping causing a mountainous pile-up on 
the docks. 

Pershing and his staff inevitably made many mistakes in ordering 
supplies, in countermanding orders, in asking for the unusable and 
forgetting to requisition what was needed. A classic example of the 
confusion was the matter of ordering unloading equipment for the 
French docks. On July 14, 1917, the A.E.F. ordered sixty gantry 
cranes. The order was then canceled by one purchasing board, but 
confirmed by another. Eight of the cranes were on their way before 
the cancellation arrived in the United States, were installed at the port 
of Bassens and found to be highly useful. The other fifty-two were 
left lying on various docks or at the plants where they were manu- 
factured. On August 18, 1918, the A.E.F. cabled for the fifty-two 
abandoned cranes, plus sixteen more, and the war ended before every- 
thing could be straightened out. 

On the other hand, Stateside purchasing and procurement were 
even more wildly erratic, having more men and money to confuse the 
situation. Forty-one million pairs of shoes were bought for 4,000,000 
soldiers. Twenty-one million dollars' worth of horse-ambulance har- 
nesses were acquired, although most ambulances had been motorized. 
Washington ordered 965,000 saddles for only 86,000 horses in the 
remount stables. A Chicago firm received $171,687 for producing ex- 
actly ninety-eight kitchen utensils ordered by the Army, and a Pitts- 


burgh company got $3,000,000 for chemicals never delivered. A 
Massachusetts shoe manufacturer showed unfinished contracts totaling 
$6,000,000 when the war ended and received $1,300,000 by way of 

Pershing complained that there was "ample evidence of great con- 
fusion at home due to lack of efficient supervision, even in New York 
Harbor, where experts should have been easy to find. Ships were sel- 
dom loaded to their full capacity; supplies greatly needed were often 
left behind; non-essentials were being sent over; many things were 
broken due to careless loading; and troops were often shipped to one 
port and their equipment to another. The Washington bureaus often- 
times followed blindly some out-of-date supply table drawn up under 
a former regime "by an antiquated desk soldier long since retired and 

One shipload of oddities whose bills of lading were shown Pershing 
as an example of the useless items being sent over provoked the fol- 
lowing angry cable from Pershing to the War Department: 

"Recommend no further shipments to be made of following articles 
. . . bath bricks, book cases, bath tubs, cabinets for blanks, chairs 
except folding chairs, cuspidors, office desks, floor wax, hose except 
fire hose, step ladders, lawn mowers, refrigerators, safes except iron 
field safes, settees, sickles, stools, window shades. Further stop orders 
will follow soon." 

In a subsequent cable, October 10, he cited a number of regimental 
units which had come over with only their combat equipment, medical 
detachments arriving without supplies or transportation, other units 
dispatched with their equipment and supplies loaded onto other ships, 
and added, "Manner in which these regiments come to France does not 
indicate much improvement over conditions Spanish-American War." 

Human material for the A.E.F., particularly senior officers who 
would command brigades and divisions, had also become a matter of 
concern, and Pershing wrote Secretary of War Baker in a confidential 
letter: "... I fear that we have some general officers who have neither 
the experience, the energy nor the aggressive spirit to prepare their 
units or handle them under battle conditions as they exist today. . . . 
A division commander must get down into the trenches with his men, 
and is at all times subject to severe hardships." Few of the general 
officers coming over had "the vigor and alertness to inspire our men 
with confidence," he warned. "The French Army was filled with dead 


timber at the beginning of the war, and many French failures are due 
to this fact. General officers must be fitted physically and mentally, 
must have the go and initiative to fill positions fraught with such mo- 
mentous consequences to the nation and which involve the lives of 
thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of our men. All the officers 
referred to [he had appended a list of officers whom he considered 
unfit physically and professionally] are friends of mine, but that should 
count for nothing. . . . There is one thing more, if you will pardon 
me. An army is a better fighting unit if it is a contented army. All 
other things being equal, this can best be produced by giving the most 
efficient officers merited recognition. Always having high efficiency as 
a guide, I believe promotions could safely be made from various arms 
on a basis of length and service and experience. . . . Any high class 
officer who has made good with troops in one arm very soon grasps 
the duties of another arm." 

Pershing seldom, if ever, allowed friendship to influence his judg- 
ment of personnel. Aside from purely patriotic considerations, he was 
too ambitious to allow his own career and record to be jeopardized by 
men who were incapable of doing their jobs efficiently. Many old 
friends tried to get their sons or other relatives commissioned under 
his command, but they were almost invariably turned aside. One of 
his few exceptions was obtaining commissions for two of Theodore 
Roosevelt's sons both of whom more than proved their worth in com- 
batand this was undoubtedly due to their obvious potentialities as 
well as to the fact that their father had given Pershing the key promo- 
tion of his career. 

The only personal friend whom he plucked out of regimental ob- 
scurity and raised to a high place at A.E.F. Headquarters was Charles 
G. Dawes, whose experience as a Chicago banker and as comptroller 
in the McKinley administration he regarded as invaluable in straight- 
ening out the Army's procurement difficulties in France. Before Per- 
shing went overseas, according to Dawes, he arranged for his friend 
from Lincoln days to be commissioned over lunch at the Metropolitan 
Club in Washington the scene of more high-level politicking in the 
capital's history than any congressional cloakroom at which their mu- 
tual friend, Charles E. Magoon, former governor general of Cuba, 
was also present. Dawes, joining the 17th Engineers, had gone off to 
war in style. He and his commanding officer took a private car to the 
base at Atlanta and lived aboard it with their wives while the regi- 


ment was undergoing its training. Herbert Hoover had tried to snatch 
Dawes back into civilian life as head of the grain price-control 
agency, but Dawes had successfully protested the proposed transfer as 
"unfair and cruel." Like many men of middle age he wanted the re- 
flected glamour of war and the stimulant of whatever small risks at- 
tended the work of the rearmost headquarters. 

As it turned out, Dawes not only performed splendidly as general 
purchasing agent for the A.E.F. and head of its ten-man General Pur- 
chasing Board, which represented all procuring departments of the 
Army as well as the Red Cross and the Army Y.M.C.A., but fulfilled 
another role as no other man could. He was Pershing's confidant, the 
man with whom4he commander in chief could relax completelyeven 
to mourning over their dead children without losing face. Dawes's 
amiable personality and sense of humor undoubtedly helped Pershing 
over many rough spots. 

Colonel Dawes was probably the only man in uniform who could 
get away with poking fun at the military formalities which Pershing 
held so dear. Harbord observed that Dawes "satirized" army custom 
by "exaggerating the customary military amenities." Once when Per- 
shing made a surprise appearance at the chateau near Tours where 
Dawes and his staff had established themselves, an orderly rushed into 
the dining room to inform them of Pershing's arrival. Dawes and his 
companions had been chatting over coffee and cigars. They hurried 
out to line up and salute the general. Dawes, however, had forgotten 
to remove the cigar from his mouth and, in saluting, he showered him- 
self and Pershing with sparks and ashes. Later Pershing took him in 
a corner and said, "Charlie, I might suggest that the next time you 
salute you put your cigar in the other side of your mouth." 

For his part, the future vice-president of the United States recorded 
in his diary that "I have never worked in greater accord with anyone 
than Pershing," and regarded him as "the strongest character I have 
ever known." As Pershing's closest confidant, he reported in his diary 
that (as early as September 3, 1917) Pershing predicted the war would 
end by Christmas 1918 and foresaw as the greatest problem to be met 
by the Allies the working out of co-operation, somehow, between the 
United States, France, Britain, and Italy. "John is the master of his 
great place," he wrote on October 12. "It has not affected his perspec- 
tive or changed him in any way. He has the proper mixture of caution 


along with his tremendous initiative and executive capacity. He thinks 
a thing out, and then acts without indecision." 

His admiration for Pershing never quite inhibited his teasing the 
general in public. Once, dining at the home of Herman Harjes, the 
Morgan partner now serving on Pershing's staff, Dawes leaned back 
in his chair during a lull in the conversation and playfully announced, 
"General, I know Mrs. Harjes will be interested if you tell her about 
the old Spanish nobleman, Don Cameron, who used to entertain us 
in the same way in the old days." Unflustered, Pershing turned the 
tables on his friend by explaining "in detail" to their companions how 
he and Dawes had dined nightly at Don Cameron's ten-cent lunch 
counter in Lincoln, then "entered upon a forcible statement of the 
impossibility of properly militarizing an old friend." 

In the fall of 1917, the A.E.F. moved its General Headquarters 
from Paris to Chaumont, which was closer to the sector its forces 
would occupy, removed Pershing and his staff from the intrigue and 
harassments of the French capital, and gave them a place where they 
could work out their problems in a thoroughly Americanized atmos- 
phere. When necessary, Pershing could reach Paris by train or auto- 
mobile in a few hours. Furthermore, he was provided with a chateau, 
seemingly an historic necessity for all generals fighting on French soil, 
whether they had been welcomed there or not. 

Chaumont, a city of 16,000 and the capital of the Department of 
the Haute-Marne, was located in the beautiful rolling country of the 
Upper Marne and long had been a name place in history. It was the 
meeting ground of three feudal domains, standing where the frontiers 
of Burgundy and Champagne had touched on Lorraine. A century ago 
Francis II of Austria, Alexander I of Russia, and Frederick William 
of Prussia had signed a defensive alliance against Napoleon in its 
castle. The A.E.F. Headquarters was located in town, at the Damre- 
mont Barracks, the long stone buildings of which were grouped 
around a quadrangle. Pershing's office was a large, sparsely furnished 
room whose appointments discouraged visitors from tarrying. The 
light from the barracks-square windows shone over his shoulder and 
right in their faces. There was a row of straight-backed wooden chairs, 
no rugs, no wall decorations except a huge map of the western front 
on the wall to the left of his desk. The only other furnishings were a 
lamp and a telephone. 

His residence, which his classmate General Avery D. Andrews 


called "somewhat over-furnished," was the Chateau des Escholiers, 
built in the seventeenth century, four miles south on the winding road 
to Langres. He took over a suite under the baronial tower hi the south- 
east corner of the second floor. In the east wing a collection of armor, 
medieval halberds, helmets, and ancient family portraits were moved 
out and another office established for the commander in chief. Here 
was his famous "night desk," where he received late reports from the 
front and disposed of matters left hanging fire from the daytime pro- 

Chaumont still wasn't far enough from Paris to discourage cere- 
monial visits and junketing delegations. Among those received hi the 
next twelve months, some with genuine warmth, others with whatever 
amenities the situation required, were the Prince of Wales (presently 
the Duke of Windsor), Lord Northcliffe, Hilaire Belloc, the Japanese 
Marquis Saito, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, E. H. Sothern 
and Julia Marlowe, Margaret Wilson (the President's daughter), 
Walter Damrosch, Elsie Janis, Dwight Morrow, Samuel Gompers, 
William Allen White, and countless American, French, and British pol- 
iticians. President Wilson and his wife paid a brief visit there shortly 
after the war ended. 

One particularly keen-eyed caller was Colonel Repington, the cele- 
brated London Times military expert and intimate of Field Marshal 
Haig. On his visit to Chaumont on October 11 he was somewhat 
taken aback by the fact that only water was served in the G.H.Q. 
mess. Furthermore, he observed that the American staff officers "know 
very little of practical soldiering. One came in one day when I was in 
Wagstaff's [Colonel Cyril Wagstaff, the British liaison officer] office 
and said, 'Say, Colonel, when you have to move troops by rail what do 
you do?' Wagstaff had to explain the whole process from A to Z." 
General Pershing, however, "inspires me with complete confidence. He 
is naturally reserved, but frank, clear-headed, wise, uncommonly de- 
termined." Colonel Repington also observed that "Pershing and Har- 
bord have an intolerable number of people to see and an overwhelm- 
ing mass of administrative matters to attend to apart from all their diffi- 
culties with the French. The Americans do not yet understand what 
a General Staff means. It has been ignored or snubbed in the past, and, 
having become academic, it stands apart from the troops and is not, 
Pershing says, too popular with them." 

Soon after the move to Chaumont-one of those "difficulties with 


the French"-it became apparent that the senior ally was still intent 
on supplying the A.E.F. with what the Americans called "nursemaids." 
The French kept sending missions to Chaumont in various watchful 
and tutorial capacities, and unlike the British liaison officer they were 
not inclined to sit in their offices and wait to be asked for advice or 
information. Pershing, in fact, felt it necessary to make tracks for 
General Petain's headquarters to "enlighten him on their respective 
functions and powers," as Harbord wrote in his diary, "and inciden- 
tally to discourage his mission-creating tendencies." Petain suggested 
that he send one of his best generals to Chaumont as an adviser. 
"Figuratively his Mission would warm the milk for our General, and 
do their best to see that he was taught his business. ... I suspect, 
though, that he bumped into Pershing's projecting chin, for no Mis- 
sion is to be established by him." 

One visitor who was received with a sort of kindly impatience was 
Marshal Joffre. His staff demanded ceremonial flourishes for the 
visit, and the Americans had to turn out a guard of honor, complete 
with trumpeter, to lend tone to his arrival on October 15. "Personally," 
Harbord wrote, "I think that the simple-minded kindly old soul would 
prefer to be left at home to admire the goldfish and attend his gera- 
niums, and think of the triumphs of his American visit, but the staff 
can see him sliding out of the public mind, completely ignored offi- 
cially, without influence and power, and only for a moment regaining 
the limelight in the occasional exchange of visits with General 

It was rather a pathetic lesson in how quickly military glory can 
fade, once a man has been placed on the shelf and told to stay there 
until it comes time to grace some ceremonial occasion. One wonders 
whether Pershing himself ever recalled the rather tolerant and con- 
descending politeness with which the old "Hero of the Marne" was 
received. He might well have, a quarter of a century later, when an- 
other world war had broken out and he himself ached for some sign 
that he was not forgotten. 

"After dinner," Harbord wrote, "and we had said the usual banal 
things which people who are trying to learn each other's language say 
to each other, Boyd [Pershing's interpreter] was told to tell the old 
Marshal that he was no doubt fatigued and wished to retire. And he 
was and he did." 

Joffre was pleased with the visit, even though he had been packed 


off to bed like an elderly child, and told Harbord that "we showed him 
the first soldiers he has seen in eight months." 

Another eminent French soldier, still on the active list and com- 
manding the quiet sector west from the Swiss frontier, also came to 
pay his respects. He was General Marquis de Castelnau, whom many 
considered to be the best of the French generals, but royalist and Cath- 
olic and therefore suspect. The Americans were highly pleased with 
Castelnau, partly because of his soldierly aversion to oratory. "Good 
old Castelnau," Harbord said, "confined his remarks to the raising of 
his glass and hoping that we might water our horses together in the 
Rhine, which I took to mark him of cavalry origin, but it turned out 
that he was an infantryman." 

It was still necessary for Pershing to make frequent visits to Paris 
on inter-Allied matters. On one of his early commuting trips he and his 
aides stopped their automobile for a picnic supper along the roadside 
near a section house not too different, perhaps, from the one in which 
he was born. A half-dozen youngsters, thin-faced and hungry-eyed but 
hanging back at a respectful distance, gathered around to watch. Per- 
shing, whose fondness for children was one natural instinct he did not 
attempt to suppress or dissemble, coaxed them until they shyly joined 
the picnic. On every motor trip to Paris after that, unless he was in a 
great hurry, he stopped the car at the section house and dropped off 
a box of candy, a cake, or a food parcel. His public relations officers 
might have worked up a much-needed human-interest story about 
those stops, except that he insisted they be kept secret. Apparently 
they served as a sort of talisman, a contact with simple reality, an 
antidote to the pomposity and egocentricity that filled his days. 

Perhaps it was just as well that he had removed himself from the 
superficialities of Paris. He was especially irked by the numbers of 
Americans coming over to dally on the fringes of war and demand 
guided tours of the training camps. His wrath at idlers and curiosity 
seekers exploded over at least one innocent head, and a very pretty 
one at that. Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., the daughter-in-law of his 
prime benefactor, had come over to Paris and busied herself with 
Y.M.C.A. work, partly, of course, to be closer to her husband, who 
had been commissioned on Pershing's recommendation. 

She met Pershing at a reception, and the general was very pleasant, 
as always in feminine company, until "suddenly a thought struck him." 


With his face "set like the Day of Judgment," Mrs. Roosevelt re- 
called, he demanded in a harsh voice: 

"How do you happen to be here anyhow? No wives are allowed 
to come overseas. Where are your children? Your place is with them, 
not here. I think you ought to be sent home." 

The young lady was mortified. Pershing's voice had carried across 
the crowded room; "it was as if the angel Gabriel had blown his horn." 
Causing a scene of any kind, particularly one that would embarrass a 
lady, was totally out of character for Pershing and testified to his ex- 
asperation with his junketing countrymen. Apparently he soon real- 
ized that he had taken it out on the wrong person. A few weeks later 
he apologized to her as handsomely as possible. His peace offer evi- 
dently was accepted. An entry in his diary read, "Had Mrs. Theodore 
Roosevelt Jr. to dinner with others." 

10. The "Valley Forge Winter" 

In the fall of 1917 one of the United Press war correspondents in 
France was an eager and ambitious young man named Westbrook 
Pegler. He was one of a dozen newspapermen domiciled at the A.E.F.'s 
press camp at Neufchateau in the valley of the Meuse, not far from 
where the First Division was in training, at Gondrecourt, or the Gen- 
eral Headquarters at Chaumont. One day when the other correspond- 
ents were herded off to visit the First's artillery camp at LeValdahon 
young Mr. Pegler decided to attempt a coup of the first magnitude 
an exclusive interview with General Pershing. He drove over to Chau- 
mont and, with the brashness acquired in the knockabout school of 
the police reporter, bluffed his way past guards and aides until he 
found himself in Pershing's office at the Caserne Damremont. 

The interview, as Pegler told his colleagues that evening, was neither 
lengthy nor informative. 

"General Pershing," he announced to the scowling figure behind the 
desk, "I'm Pegler of the United Press. Can you give me a statement 
on the general situation?" 

"Pegler, get the hell out of my office," was the general's full and 
considered reply. 

For most correspondents, the exceptions being those who had 
known Pershing before or were accustomed to dealing with the Regu- 
lar Army, that seemed to epitomize the commanding general's atti- 
tude toward the press and its responsibility for gathering and dissemi- 
nating the news. Not unexpectedly, therefore, the press regarded him 
as a ruthless disciplinarian, an overactive censor, a khaki-clad dicta- 
tor, and often portrayed him as such for the people back home. Criti- 



cism had to be conveyed subtly, of course, or the correspondents risked 
having their credentials snatched away; they were treated much less 
liberally than during World War II, when a horde of public relations 
officers was assigned to cozening the press. 

The conflict of interest between the press and the military was in- 
evitable, the correspondent's job being to transmit all the information 
he could gather, favorable or not, and the soldier's to suppress a large 
portion of it on grounds of patriotism and/or military security. Gen- 
erals had always tended to regard any newspaperman who told un- 
palatable truths as a potential traitor. During the Civil War, General 
Sherman had solemnly proceeded with plans to hang a correspondent 
until deterred by higher authority. 

Pershing was never impelled to consider the firing squad for any 
of the correspondents attached to the A.E.F., but as a rule he kept 
them sternly at a distance. The newspapermen, accustomed to a cer- 
tain deference from public figures, were affronted by his cold demeanor 
during their few and brief initial contacts with him. Nor was there any 
growth of sympathy when he finally submitted to a mass press con- 
ference at Chaumont. He tended to lecture rather than accede to the 
give-and-take which newspapermen expected of a confrontation with 
a government official. With sixteen accredited correspondents present, 
he tried to explain his reasons for demanding strict obedience of all 
his troops, to show that discipline would save their lives in battle. 
He added that he didn't want his soldiers to be turned into automatons 
but to learn and think out for themselves the purpose of their presence 
in Europe. They were learning the fundamentals of trench warfare 
under French instructors, but he wanted them also to learn to rely on 
the rifle and the technique of fast-breaking infantry attacks. He was 
preparing the A.E.F., he emphasized, for battles of maneuver which 
would break the deadlock on the western front. 

An Associated Press correspondent suggested that Pershing might 
want to reconsider that last statement, since Allied generals of greater 
experience than his had reiterated publicly that the trench line could 
not be broken by any means. Would it not sound like boasting for an 
American newcomer to proclaim, without having fought a battle, that 
he had the recipe for victory? Pershing stared coldly at the A. P. man 
and replied with a rasping edge to his voice: "Of course the Western 
Front can be broken. What are we here for? We and our allies to- 
gether are going to break it. You may quote me as stated." 


Some may have been impressed with his confidence, but most of 
the correspondents were repelled by what they considered his arro- 
gance in claiming that he had discovered the secret of victory. They 
little understood the complexity of the problems confronting him 
the pressure from the French and British to parcel out his forces, the 
difficulties in setting up a supply line across France, the backbiting and 
confusion in Washington and few took the trouble to wander afield 
from the press camp and explore them. The journalistic reaction to 
Pershing from then until the end of the war was as hostile as the gen- 
eral himself seemed to be toward the press. Their opinion was summed 
up by Herbert Corey, the correspondent for Associated Newspapers, 
in a letter to Henry W. Suydam at the American legation at The 
Hague : "The West Pointer promises to be the biggest joke of the war. 
He is ignorant, arrogant and in advanced state of mental decay. The 
younger officers may grow out of it. The older are, I think, hopeless. 
Our staff is viciously incompetent and is covering up the incompetence 
which it may suspect by a huge pretense of desk-slamming and 

The most caustic journalistic appraisal of Pershing's stewardship 
of the A.E.F. was written by a lumbering young man who represented 
the New York Tribune in France during the fall of 1917 and then 
returned home before Christmas to deliver his opinions and observa- 
tions beyond the range of army censorship. Few more telling pieces 
were written than those of Heywood Broun, who didn't like the Army, 
viewed all forms of military life with something close to horror, and 
detested most generals. He described the boredom of the troops, the 
petty tyranny of their officers, the general atmosphere of homesickness 
and frustration. 

His comments on Pershing naturally reflected his attitude toward 
the seeming inhumanity of most military leaders : 

"Nobody will ever call him Papa Pershing. He is a stepfather to the 
inefficient and even when he is pleased he says little. . . . 

"His interest in detail is insatiable. He can read a man's soul through 
his boots or his buttons. ..." 

On a trip through a training camp, "we found him talking about 
onions to a cook," and he minutely inspected the sewage system, the 
kitchens, and hayloft billets. 

On Pershing's strictness, a young officer was quoted as saying, "I 


think that his favorite military leader is Joshua, because he made the 
sun and the moon stand at attention." 

Pershing, he thought, was learning the "value of a pat on the back 
given at the right time" but "still lacks a little of the French feeling 
for the dramatic in the doing of little things/' 

Broun observed with amusement Pershing's technique or lack of it 
in accepting the bouquets that were presented to him in every village 
along the way. "The donor was usually a French girl and a very little 
one. . . . General Pershing began by patting the little girls on the 
head, but he realized it was not enough and after a bit he began to kiss 
them too; only once or twice he got tangled up in their hats and found 
it hard to maintain military dignity. He handled the flowers gingerly. 
He seemed to regard each bouquet as a bomb which would explode in 
five seconds." 

The habitually disheveled Broun could only marvel at how Per- 
shing could emerge from a muddy trench or drill field without a spot 
or smudge on his boots and uniform, and his intense dislike of "rust, 
dust, dirt, round shoulders and hands in pocket." 

Broun accompanied Pershing and his aides on a tour of American- 
held trenches in a quiet sector of the front, the general stomping along 
with a Romeo & Juliet cigar stuck in the corner of his mouth. They 
came to the dugout of a company commander who, they later learned, 
had spent fifty-two sleepless hours settling his nervous and apprehen- 
sive troops in the line. 

The captain was just dropping off to sleep when Pershing banged 
on the door of his dugout and shouted, "Is this the company com- 

"Yes," bellowed the captain, "and what the hell do you want?" 

"I'm General Pershing!" 

Broun noted, however, that Pershing "permitted himself the shadow 
of a smile" as he confronted the weary company commander in his 
dugout and listened to his stammered apologies. 

The average West Pointer's attitude toward his men, Broun ob- 
served, was "generally speaking the same as that of General Pershing" 
and "I was inclined to believe that the men from the academy handled 
men better than reserve officers. They are strict, it is true, but at the 
same time they have been trained to look after the needs of their men 

Pershing's staff collected Broun's articles for the general's inspec- 


tion, incensed particularly by the prediction that the troops would 
never call him "Papa," obvious though it should have been that he was 
hardly striving for popularity with his men. They drew up a statement 
charging that Broun had broken faith, having signed a pledge not to 
write anything without submitting it to censorship by the A.E.F., and 
presented it to Pershing for his signature. His chief censor, Major 
Palmer, argued against it. Broun, he pointed out, was "a good deal 
of a genius" and the regulations governing censorship should not al- 
ways be applied "so literally." Pershing wisely agreed with Palmer and 
tossed the statement aside. Broun's credentials were revoked, however, 
and the $1000 bond posted by the Tribune was seized by the govern- 
ment on the grounds that Broun had violated censorship. 

Pershing's views on press and propaganda were understandable 
enough to Major Palmer, but his natural aloofness prevented him 
from sharing them more widely. The general thought a lot of talk is- 
suing from Chaumont would only be harmful. Disregarding the ap- 
petite for information in a democracy, he told Palmer "his army would 
speak for him when he had it in action. It ill became him to talk 
when as yet it was only in training, and he was protecting it from 
French pressure to infiltrate our troops into the French army." And 
there was an even more urgent reason for clamping the lid on opti- 
mistic statements from G.H.Q. He "did not want our own public or 
the French public to be deceived by false promises. . . . Our first 
hundred thousand were not to wonder, as Kitchener's did, if the war 
would not be over before they reached France; our people must real- 
ize they would have to put their backs into it until their withers were 
wrung and the French that they had to keep on having their withers 
wrung for a long period." 

As for propaganda, Pershing tended to underestimate its potentiali- 
ties and obviously did not devote a great deal of thought to the sub- 
ject. The only psychology that interested him was his soldiers' morale; 
what happened on the home fronts, friendly or enemy, was beyond his 
sphere of responsibility. He told Palmer quite emphatically that he 
wanted to "avoid a propaganda of hate" toward Germany and the 
Central Powers, that he was determined that the Americans would 
"fight cleanly for the principles which had brought us into the war." 
(Doubtless, many of his Allied confreres would have regarded that 
statement as a fair sample of American naivete.) As to the atrocity 
stories ground out by Allied propagandists-the tales of crucified 


Canadians and violated nuns he simply said, "Let's see if we can not 
get on without it." There was little hatred in his system for the Germans 
as men; he had a professional soldier's sense of detachment which 
tended toward a reluctant admiration of the enemy when he fought 
well. "Look at what the German army has done to the Allies," he 
told Major Palmer. "It has blown a balloon into their lines. It is a 
great army. I have some German blood in my veins and we will give 
them as good as they send, German against German, and better." He 
referred to the large number of German-Americans in the A.E.F. and 
the as yet unrealized hope that they would perform nobly against the 
German-Germans . 

. . . The October rains came, and with them the cessation of major 
campaigning on the western front. Behind the lines the pace of work 
was necessarily accelerated. Almost every day the signs multiplied that 
American forces would be needed much more quickly than Pershhig 
believed advisable. He now saw the war as ending in 1919, but many 
of his colleagues wondered if Allied morale would hold out that long. 
Russia had completely dropped out of the war, fully occupied with its 
internal problems. At the end of October, Italy suffered a crushing 
blow when the German Fourteenth Army broke through at Caporetto, 
took 275,000 prisoners, and was halted seventy-odd miles away on 
the Piave. 

It was the beginning of what the Americans called, with some ex- 
aggeration, their "Valley Forge winter." 

Pershing worked twelve to sixteen hours a day, sometimes holding 
as many as twenty conferences in his offices at Chaumont or in Paris, 
traveling constantly to the French capital and to his various training 
and supply centers. As his chief of staff recalled, the pressure around 
General Headquarters often caused tempers to crack. Colonel Har- 
bord, even-tempered as he was, sometimes found Pershing more than 
a little trying. "It was not easy to read General Pershing, nor to know 
how seriously to take his first utterances on a subject. Sometimes they 
were thrown out to provoke discussion or were trial balloons or smoke 
screens. He took practically nothing on faith . . . and 'had to be 
shown.' " When Harbord told one hard-working staff officer that Per- 
shing had queried him on just what the officer was doing, he was some- 
what taken aback by the reply, "Hell, does he expect me to run and 
tell him every time I do anything?" 

A "rather difficult period," Colonel Harbord called it, and the sup- 


ply situation alone would have made it that. The chief of staff recorded 
in his diary how peculiarly the A.E.F. was being supplied. ". . . 
Caterpillar tractors where motorcycles are needed; kalsomine instead 
of paint; birdshot instead of bullets; mothballs instead of shrapnel, etc. 
Hundreds of well-intentioned suggestions, scores of self-advertising 
Americans, newspaper correspondents on every ship. . . . Wagon 
bodies without wheels, motor trucks without engines . . . mules with- 
out harness . . . forty-seven porcelain-lined bathtubs for the Aviation 
School. Trucks for these Headquarters, standing on the Hoboken 
docks on June 8, have not yet arrived. Ships coming over here loaded 
have to go back in 'ballast' as we sailors say. Last trip over one of 
them took 800 tons of sand. In the whole world just now, from our 
standpoint, there is no material thing or entity so valuable as shipping 
space to bring over material, men and munitions. Yet that ship was 
allowed by an intelligent Quartermaster Department to haul 800 
tons of St. Nazaire sand back here on its return trip. Think of the 
shoes, the toothpaste, cartridges, socks, etc., etc., crowded out by 
that 800 tons of French sand. Wow-wow, and then wow! ! 1" 

Several of the more energetic American correspondents began in- 
vestigating the supply situation and found it deplorable. Item: 400 
ailing soldiers of the Rainbow Division were being cared for in haylofts 
while hospital space was sought for them. Item: the few ambulances 
available to the United States Medical Corps had papier-mache 
sides which disintegrated in wet weather. Item: elements of the First 
Division moving into the quiet sector near Arracourt were short of 
rations, soap, candles, and their American-made gas masks did not 
function properly. 

The correspondents wanted to tell this story and applied to Pershing 
personally to have it sent through censorship. Pershing immediately 
cabled the War Department, asking permission to release their ac- 
counts of the supply shortages. ". . . Suppressing these dispatches 
subjects us here to charges of keeping back information which press 
reasonably claim American people is entitled to know. Such news must 
undoubtedly reach public in some manner. ... As criticism seems 
inevitable, probably best not wait until it is published from hostile 
sources but accept it from friendly sources instead. Recommend there- 
fore release to correspondents here articles involving temperate criti- 
cisms on supply departments where they are known to be well founded. 
Early action requested." The War Department rejected his disingenu- 


ous request immediately, pointing out that the stories "might be con- 
strued as criticisms by you through the press" which, of course, was 
exactly what they would have been. It was a shrewd retort, bearing the 
hallmark of Secretary of War Baker's agile mind. 

Pershing's chief consolation during the month of October was the 
news that the United States Senate had passed an act approving his 
promotion to full general, the first since General Sheridan. Otherwise 
it was not a heartening month. He cabled the War Department on 
October 21 : "During the past week the water-soaked ground in Flan- 
ders and on the Western Front has prevented further development of 
offensive movements. . . . Next year must see two offensives, con- 
tinuously maintained throughout the summer, if decisive result is to 
be obtained. This can only be secured through aid of effective United 
States Army on this side." 

In his continual round of visits to American training centers, many 
of them under supervision of the French, he was depressed by the em- 
phasis on the use of the hand grenade and trench-digging tools and 
kept pointing out that "in the American army the rifle has always been 
the essential weapon." At his insistence the American troops were 
taken out on the rifle ranges as frequently as possible. He kept a firm 
hold on all his units farmed out to the French and British armies for in- 
struction. As General Bullard noted, "It was his requirement, at least 
with the commands which I exercised under the French, to keep a 
special wire from the commander of American troops to his own head- 
quarters and to require full reports therefrom daily of what was pass- 
ingof all orders and operations." 

Late in October the first American shots of the war were fired after 
four battalions of the First Division, on October 21, moved into the 
line east of Nancy with the 18th French Division. On October 23, 
First Lieutenant I. R. McLendon, Battery C, 6th Field Artillery, pulled 
the lanyard on the first American gun at 6:05 A.M. Seven days later 
a platoon of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, was struck 
by a German box barrage and a trench raid by 250 storm troops, in 
which three American soldiers were killed. The A.E.F. was now offi- 
cially "blooded." The trench raid, which acquainted many Ameri- 
cans with the sudden terror of fighting on the western front, was feel- 
ingly described by General Bullard, "It is a short, terrible, crashing 
fight, a thing of a few rods and a few minutes, filled with danger and 


death. It is preceded and followed by a tornado of artillery fire [the 
box barrage] that drives men into the earth as the only safety, from 
which they may not emerge at all or emerge to death and capture. 
Its suddenness, its hand-to-hand deadly encounters, its carnage at 
close quarters with daggers, pistols, and fearful explosives, its shatter- 
ing, bloody, merciless action, make it terrible to both raiders and 
raided. Well that it lasts but a few minutes; it cannot last more." 

Pershing himself appeared in the front-line sector held by elements 
of the First Division when it planned to undertake its first trench raid. 
The raid was a complete fizzle. A long tube of explosives, called a 
Bangalore torpedo, was brought up to tear a gap in the barbed wire, 
but it was broken .while being carried to the jump-off position. A half- 
hour delay ensued while the men tried to bring up another torpedo. 
By the time it was found, all hope of surprising the Germans was gone, 
so the raid was sensibly called off. 

Pershing witnessed a much larger operation when the French Army 
Group of the North, under General Franchet d'Esperey, launched its 
offensive on the Chemin des Dames. It was a limited success. While 
the guns thundered across the Aisne, Pershing "enjoyed a menu that 
would have done credit to any restaurant in Paris," as he wrote, during 
a luncheon given in his honor by the French commander in a chamber 
of the old Fort Conde. With the battle hanging in the balance, General 
d'Esperey, with the ultimate in nonchalance, provided his guests with 
a long account of how he had crossed Iowa several years before during 
a local experiment with prohibition and could not slake his thirst with 
even a glass of wine. "To have heard him describe how he suffered 
while in Iowa/' Pershing commented, "one would have thought he was 
telling of a trip across the Sahara Desert." 

Continuing his whirlwind tour of France late in October, Pershing 
returned to Paris en route to Saint-Nazaire, where he was to inspect 
the docks and other supply facilities. For a man with his capacity for 
detail, he became quite helpless when confronted with the intricacies of 
a timetable and other aspects of travel. His aides and staff officers, 
including Colonel Harbord, were driven frantic by his talent for wreck- 
ing their arrangements. The party was supposed to leave the Gare 
Quai d'Orsay at 7 P.M. on October 27 for Saint-Nazaire. An hour be- 
fore traintime his aides learned that Pershing would be delayed. His 
portrait was being painted by a young French artist, Mile. Micheline 


Resco, in whom he was taking a great deal of interest, 1 and he had 
loaned her his hat and belt to allow her to fill in those details in time 
for an important exhibition. 

With considerable misgivings the rest of the party proceeded to the 
railroad station while the general, one aide, and a driver waited for 
Mile. Resco to return the missing items of his uniform. When she failed 
to appear, Pershing finally consented to borrow his aide's hat and belt. 
By then the main body of his party was using every possible argument 
with the French railroad officials to hold up the train to Saint-Nazaire. 
Pershing finally showed up, fretting over the disgusting fit of his aide's 
hat, and the train was allowed to depart. Next morning, in Saint- 
Nazaire, his staff had to scurry around until they found a hat of the 
proper size. Colonel Harbord overheard his chief "pointing with evi- 
dent satisfaction to the fact that his size was one-eighth larger than 
that of any of his party-to which I was tempted to reply that none 
of the rest of us had quite so much reason to have a large hat- 
band. . . ." 

Colonel Harbord was also afforded a certain amount of grim 
amusement by the struggle for favor between Pershing's two French 
aides-de-camp, Colonel Chambrun, Lafayette's descendant, and Cap- 
tain the Marquis de la Ferronays, who would "sometimes almost push 
the General to the wall trying to snuggle up to him." The Americans 
had to arrange for the two Frenchmen to take turns sitting next to him; 
otherwise, as Harbord somewhat rudely observed, "someone might get 
slapped on the wrist, or they might start a duel with hairpins." 

Through the orchards and hedgerows of Brittany, Pershing and his 
staff hurried on their inspection of the A.E.F.'s alimentary canal. They 
found little to applaud. The port of Saint-Nazaire was congested and 
the stevedoring situation was "worse even than had been reported." 
At the port of Bassens the construction of new docks was held up by 
an alleged shortage of long timbers for piling; the French, jealous of 
their forest reserves, wanted the Americans to bring the required tim- 
bers from the Pacific Coast, but Pershing remembered seeing tall trees 
in the Vosges Mountains and insisted that they be procured in France. 
At Coetquidan, where the artillery of the 26th Division was being 

1 Further details of Pershing's relationship with Mile. Resco may be 
found in later chapters. 


trained under French supervision, Pershing was displeased by the over- 
crowded condition of the camp. 

All this was nothing compared to the disgust he registered on visit- 
ing a camp at Le Corneau, which the Americans marked down as a 
possible site for one of their infantry training centers but which was 
now occupied by the brigade of "disaffected" Russians who had to be 
removed from the battle line after raising the red flag and murdering 
their officers. The Russians had plundered the countryside; yet the 
French hesitated to disarm them, and a sort of armed truce prevailed 
between the Russians "a heavy, stupid-looking lot," Pershing called 
them and their nominal custodians. The camp at Le Corneau was the 
"vilest and most unsanitary place I have ever seen," Pershing said, 
and decided to let the rebellious Muscovites keep it. 

Confronted by the disaster of Caporetto, which essentially was 
caused by the lack of co-ordination among the Allies and the ability 
of the Germans to transfer their forces quickly on interior rail lines, 
the Allies finally decided that their military efforts must be given a 
central direction. Unity of command was supposed to be the first prin- 
ciple of strategy, but until now the Allies had relied upon more or less 
voluntary co-operation between their commanders in chief. It simply 
hadn't worked. Haig and Petain, in fact, avoided each other as much 
as possible. 

Now the military situation demanded a change. Even with the 
Americans hi the war, an Allied victory appeared anything but prob- 
able. Up to January 1918 the war of attrition in which the French 
and British high commands had invested their last desperate hopes was 
going against the Allies. On the western front, Germany had inflicted 
5,800,000 casualties on her opponents, while France and Britain 
had inflicted a combined total of 3,349,000 on her, and even at Ver- 
dun, where the French fought mostly behind their complex of fortifica- 
tions, the Germans suffered fewer casualties of all kinds. "Germany," 
commented the caustic General March, soon to be United States chief 
of staff, "could have gone on forever under the system of attacks pur- 
sued by the Allies." 

Three steps had to be taken to insure that the Allies would not con- 
tinue this slide toward military bankruptcy: the creation of a Su- 
preme War Council, the appointment of a Supreme Commander, and 
the formation of an Inter-Allied Reserve. 


But the idea of unified command so affronted national interests and 
so provoked the professional jealousies of the generals that it had to be 
pursued with the utmost tact and caution. Only the Americans, among 
the military, seemed to have no fixed prejudice against the idea. The 
Allied chiefs of state, Wilson, Lloyd George, and Clemenceau none 
of whom were inhibited by any great awe of their military leaders- 
were fortunately unanimous in favoring the scheme. 

It was a critical moment in the political and strategical war that was 
waged endlessly behind the fighting fronts. The whole foundation of 
future campaigning under new conditionsRussia out, America in, 
Germany regrouping for a decisive effort in the West had to be con- 
structed under depressing circumstances. Whatever hopes the Allies 
still had of winning rested on whether the United States could fill the 
military vacuum created by the Russian withdrawal and that did not 
now seem likely. The only possible way to take up the slack was to em- 
ploy the Allied forces with greater effect and skill, which meant, first 
of all, that a Supreme War Council must be agreed upon. Toward 
that end the Allied leaders began gathering in Paris early in November 
under gray dripping skies and the pall of depression which hung over 
the wartime capital. Prime Minister Lloyd George came over from 
London; the United States was to be represented by Colonel House, 
President Wilson's plenipotentiary, and General Bliss, still acting chief 
of staff but soon to retire and become the American representative of 
the War Department. 

Lloyd George, eager to sound out American opinion on a Supreme 
War Council, invited Pershing to breakfast November 4. Brisk as al- 
ways, Pershing told him the idea didn't go far enough. "No council 
ever won a war," he snapped. "We must have a Supreme Com- 

The Briton, however, didn't think the Allies could agree on such a 
radical (though logical) step. The French would insist on a French- 
man for Supreme Commander and his own generals "might not like 

Meeting three days later at Rapallo, the Prime Ministers of France, 
Britain, and Italy announced the formation of the Supreme War 
Council, which was to sit permanently in Versailles with General Foch 
representing France, General Wilson for Britain, General Cadorna for 
Italy, and General Bliss for the United States. It was resented bitterly 
by the field commanders to the end of the war, although they had only 


themselves to blame for it. Pershing believed that if the French and 
British commanders had "seriously undertaken to pull together," the 
Supreme War Council would never have been imposed upon them. 

Many civilian as well as military leaders were opposed to the coun- 
cil, Pershing observed. "Military commanders were afraid it would re- 
sult in undue interference with the conduct of operations and it was 
often referred to in derision as the 'Soviet.' The British Army viewed 
it with considerable suspicion, thinking it might substitute politicians 
for professional soldiers as directors of the strategy of the war. A 
stronger central control was advocated by influential French newspa- 
pers in the fear that their Government might not have so much say in 
Allied affairs as heretofore. . . . The action of the Prime Ministers 
was a step in the "direction of unified command, which was no doubt 
one reason why most British as well as French officers, and a con- 
siderable number of those in high civil positions, were lukewarm to- 
ward it; yet not a few who spoke against the Council at the time said 
later that they had always been in favor of unified control." 

Pershing himself was suspicious of any homogenized decisions that 
might come out of the council, having the old-fashioned idea that wars 
could not be directed by committees, that any practical and effective 
plans could be conceived in only one brain. Allied strategy would drift, 
he believed, until one man was placed in supreme command. With- 
out that unity, he said, the French and British "made plans independ- 
ently and any advantage gained was purely local, with little material 
effect upon the final outcome." 

To Pershing, as he wrote Secretary of War Baker on November 15, 
the decision of the Rapallo conference showed only an "awakening" 
to the approaching crisis at the front. "Hitherto, each nation consid- 
ered only its own interests, thus enabling Germany to beat her enemies 
in detail. It may not have been possible to have avoided the Russian 
collapse or to have saved Rumania, but as has been pointed out, it 
does seem that with a unified control the Italian failure might have 
been avoided." 

Later that month the Inter-Allied Conference met in Paris. The 
American attitude toward it reflected a growing cynicism. Just be- 
fore the conference met at the French Foreign Ministry, Colonel House 
called a meeting of the American delegation, along with Pershing and 
Harbord, at the Hotel Crillon. House made "a baldly cynical little 
speech," according to Harbord, and "in substance" told his country- 


men: "We are going to meet this morning. Nothing will be done more 
than to go through the form of an organization. No speeches, for 
someone might blunder on to the subject of Russia, and some of the 
little fellows might ask disagreeable questions. It will be our business 
to be pleasant and sympathetic with the small nations. Listen to what 
they have to say. Do not promise them anything. Be pleasant. It is our 
day to smile. Just circulate among the little fellows and listen to their 
stories. Be kind and agreeable." A strange contrast, indeed, to the 
American propaganda pouring out of Washington about freeing the 
smaller nations from age-old tyrannies and "making the world safe 
for democracy." 

Harbord had to concede that House's prediction was correct and 
"nothing was done" at the conference. 

Pershing thought its only accomplishment was to agree that "the 
study of various subjects should be left to committees composed of 
Inter-Allied representatives" the creation of more debating societies, 
in other words, as a substitute for action. He also noted that "every- 
body was looking to America to provide the additional manpower 
needed to give the Allies superiority." 

General Bliss, who also attended, foresaw quite accurately that 
"the difficulty will come with the political men. . . . They do not fully 
realize that now the only problem is to beat the Central Powers. They 
are thinking too much of what they want to do after the Central Pow- 
ers are beaten." 

It would not be the last time an American registered such a com- 
plaint of his allies. 

His British colleagues found at least one useful aspect to the confer- 
ence, that of sizing up Pershing. Major General Sir Frederick Maurice, 
later a distinguished military historian, decided that the American was 
stubborn and standoffish, "singularly naive and lacking in understand- 
ing." Sir William Robertson, the British chief of staff, found that he 
could also be sharp-tongued and incisive. Robertson had been expand- 
ing on the critical situation of the Allied armies in Europe when Per- 
shing abruptly inquired why the British were undertaking an offensive 
in Palestine if they were so concerned about the security of the western 
front. Perhaps that kind of tactless question persuaded General 
Maurice that Pershing was "lacking in understanding." From the Brit- 
ish standpoint, the truth was, Pershing understood all too well. 

While the statesmen and the generals deliberated and formed com- 


mittees, the lesser ranks suffered through a cruel winter. The winter of 
1917-18 was the most severe of the war years, and the largely un- 
heated billets of the A.E.F., the heavy snows in eastern France, and 
the shortage of firewood for stoves added to the general misery. "The 
gloom of short days and long nights in the isolated and largely depopu- 
lated French villages can hardly be described," Pershing wrote. The 
uniforms supplied American soldiers were lightweight and shoddy. 
Emergency purchases had to be made from the British Army, leading 
to near-rebellion in a regiment composed mostly of Irish-Americans 
who furiously objected to buttons bearing the English coat of arms. 

Pershing himself did not allow the bitter weather to interfere with 
keeping in condition, which was almost an obsession with him. Dur- 
ing fair weather he went riding every morning, with Harbord as his 
customary companion. Now he took his exercise afoot. Colonel Dawes, 
visiting Chaumont just before Christmas, found the chateau so inade- 
quately heated that he dressed in front of a wood fire in Harbord's 
room. He glanced out the window after dressing, "and there was 
Black Jack, clad only in pyjamas, bathrobe and slippers, his bare an- 
kles showing, running up and down in the snow outdoors." 

But a chill wind of pessimism was circulating among even the com- 
fortably quartered senior officers of the A.E.F. One divisional com- 
mander was so gloomy over the A.E.F.'s prospects that Major Palmer, 
at G.H.Q., arranged the tours of important visitors to avoid his head- 

Temporarily, at least, one of the pessimists was General Bullard, 
commanding the First Division, whose diary entries for the early win- 
ter months were drenched with gloom. He wrote of attending a lycee 
for senior officers of General Castelnau's army group at which high- 
ranking French officers "frankly faced and acknowledged that there 
was almost no chance of victory." At home, he noted, the chairman of 
the Senate Military Affairs Committee had charged that the War De- 
partment was so bogged down it had "ceased to function." 

Bullard complained of "the growing rottenness" wherever he went 
in France. "Germany was plainly acquiring friends, spies and helpers 
in France. . . . Communication with the enemy was growing through 
Switzerland. French government officials were involved in the weaken- 
ing and the preparation to yield . . . more, I believe, than was ever 
proved or than Frenchmen will ever admit. . . . Whatever may be the 
spirit or complexion of the Government, France is not going to fight 


any more in this war." (Somewhat more tempered but similar im- 
pressions were gathered by General Pershing at the same time. He 
said that the possibility of a negotiated peace was being considered by 
"not a few influential men" in England, and that in France the same 
idea was being propagated on the grounds that German and Austrian 
troops released from other sectors would reach the battle line in north- 
ern France before American troops could bolster the Allies.) 

Bullard had long been an admirer and supporter of Pershing, back 
to the days when many other officers were enraged and embittered at 
his rapid promotion, but now his confidence in the commander in 
chief had ebbed away completely. On December 3 he wrote in his 
diary: "Our General Pershing is not a fighter; he is in all his history 
a pacifist and, unless driven thereto by the A.E.F., will do no fighting 
for France for many a day. Now let's see if this doesn't turn out so. I 
have had some (perhaps better than others) means and opportunity, 
in the Moro Country and the Philippine Islands, of observing and 
judging him. He is a worldly-wise, extremely ambitious and confidence- 
inspiring man, but not a warrior." 

On publication of his diary some years later, Bullard appended the 
somewhat apologetic footnote that this entry showed "my depressed 
state of mind at the time." Bullard, a first-rate soldier, soon recovered 
from his moodiness. Had he not, it may be presumed, he would have 
found himself at the "canning station" at Blois, where misfit officers 
were gathered for reassignment, usually to a lesser command. 

... If many of his officers were turning a critical eye on their com- 
manding general in their understandable dismay over the progress of 
the war, Pershing was looking them over with an increasingly judi- 
cious and not entirely happy scrutiny. Within the next several months 
the first American divisions would be going into battle, and he was 
determined above all else to make sure that they would be led bravely 
and skillfully. In that determination, he never hesitated to relieve offi- 
cers who faltered even momentarily, even though they were old friends 
or classmates. 

He kept a particularly watchful eye on the division commanders 
and instructed the inspector general of the A.E.F., Major General 
Andre W. Brewster, to do likewise. The first to fall under the ax was 
General Sibert, who had commanded the First Division since its earli- 
est days in France. Sibert was an engineer who had worked on the 
Panama Canal. In late November, General Brewster inspected his divi- 


sion and found its discipline far below the standards Pershing de- 
manded and recommended that Sibert be relieved. Pershing sent him 
home immediately. On assigning General Bullard to take over the com- 
mand, Pershing stressed the necessity of "being an optimist over the 
conditions existing." Bullard was also pointedly informed that another 
reason for Sibert's relief was "too much acceptance from the French 
of only defensive trench methods of warfare." His optimism may have 
evaporated once or twice, but he trained the Fkst in Pershing-style, 
free-wheeling methods of attack. By war's end, the division was First 
in more ways than one. 

The War Department began sending over groups of major generals 
who had been training divisions in the States, the first lot of seventeen 
arriving in mid-December. They were to tour the training camps and 
the battle front, ostensibly to gain some idea of what they would be 
up against if they brought their divisions overseas, but more impor- 
tantly to be looked over by General Pershing. By then, Pershing had 
sent home a second division commander, Major General William A. 
Mann, who had arrived at the head of the 42nd (Rainbow) Division 
but who was nearing the retirement age and was characterized by 
Harbord as "a politician always." 

Among the visiting generals was Hunter Liggett, who, as former 
head of the Army War College, was regarded as a "military highbrow." 
He was also one of the most capable officers in the Army. Harbord 
noted that he had "a tremendous waist measurement" and Pershing, 
with his belief that every officer should be as lean and tough as a young 
cavalryman, initially marked him down as "probably unfit" for serv- 
ice in France. Both Harbord and Pershing, however, were impressed 
with Liggett's determination to lose weight by going on morning-long 
walks. Bullard neatly described him as "a tremendously big man, 
bulky stout, of good-humored, non-worried, cheerful face. His great 
bulk might impress you as a physical weakness. It was not. He was 
active enough; he went when it meant anything to go. He was strong 
and hard; I have seen a big horse fall with him, pitching him a great 
distance on a hard, rough road, from which he rose without sprain 
or injury. . . . Liggett had the valuable faculty of seeing what was im- 
portant and what was not. . . . Faster and with less concern (yet 
without offending) than any other I know, he could dismiss trifles . . . 
he just good-humoredly but effectively passed over them without no- 
tice, no matter who brought them up. . . ." Fortunately for himself 


and for the American Army, Pershing decided to keep Liggett in 
France and gave him command of I Corps as soon as it was organized. 
He became one of the most valuable of Pershing's lieutenants, rank- 
ing in that respect with Harbord, and eventually succeeded Pershing in 
command of the First American Army. 

Two of the division commanders, Leonard Wood and J. Franklin 
Bell, were former chiefs of staff and Pershing's seniors in service. Both 
of them had been his superior in the Philippines, and both, for differ- 
ent reasons, presented vexatious problems. He simply didn't want 
Wood, regarding him as a troublemaker and a publicity seeker; yet 
consigning him to the dustbin would stir up a political storm. The case 
of General Bell was more grievous in a personal way. Pershing was 
very fond of him and owed him a debt of gratitude as one of the 
sponsors of his own success, but he was obviously too old for the 
trenches and was a diabetic besides. Pershing listed him among the 
"unavailables" in a confidential list compiled for the War Department. 
Bell returned to the States "a very heartbroken man," according to 
Secretary of War Baker. The latter appealed to Pershing on behalf of 
Bell, suggesting a training command in France. Again Pershing said 
no. Bell died a short time later, confirming Pershing's diagnosis if 
not his reputation as a good fellow. 

Ridding himself of Wood would have been much more difficult had 
the ex-Rough Rider not talked his way into temporary oblivion, sav- 
ing Pershing the trouble. 

On his way to France, General Wood stopped over in London to 
renew his many old friendships in high political circles. He particularly 
charmed Lloyd George by agreeing that the American high command 
ought to pay more attention to British advice. He made no secret of 
his opinion that he could serve the Allied cause better than Pershing. 
Even the beguiled British must have remarked on his lack of discretion. 
If not, two of his high-ranking colleagues certainly did, and they made 
the most of it. Both Pershing in Paris and Bliss in London, unin- 
hibited by any professional comradeship, tattled on him immediately. 
Pershing, hi one of his ' 'confidential" letters, wrote Baker that Wood 
was denouncing both the A.E.F. leadership and the Wilson administra- 
tion and was showing an enormous appetite for personal publicity. 
General Bliss was even more specific in detailing Wood's indiscretions 
to Baker: 

"I have heard repeated to me from all sides many reckless remarks 


made by General Wood in regard to our military situation. The sum 
and substance of it seems to be that he has done his best to discredit 
the United States here in Europe. ... I think I can already see the 
evil effect produced on the minds of British officials here. It is going 
to make it difficult for us to negotiate about getting aid in shipping if 
people here believe that whatever sacrifices they make to give us addi- 
tional tonnage are only for the purpose of bringing over an unorgan- 
ized and undisciplined mob. From what I am told as to his sayings in 
France, I should think that it would add very much to the difficulties 
of General Pershing's position. . . . 

"He knows that the British and French want us to do certain things 
which I am afraid the American people will be very loath to approve. 
He can tell their commanders and the heads of their governments what 
he would do were he in control, leaving them with the conviction that 
he would do exactly what they wish. I would not be surprised if you 
were to find a quiet movement initiated through diplomatic channels 
to substitute him for General Pershing. I learned yesterday that Mr. 
Lloyd George had inquired at our Embassy whether General Wood 
had returned from France, and had expressed an earnest desire to see 
him as soon as he arrived." 

Even while striving to replace him through currying favor with 
Lloyd George and bringing British pressure to bear on a change of 
commanders, Wood's manner with Pershing while visiting France was 
most ingratiating. If he failed to replace Pershing, he still wanted to 
come over as a division commander and make himself readily avail- 
able. Pershing, however, refused to be charmed. When Wood told him 
that the War Department was not supporting him to the best of its 
ability, Pershing curtly replied that he was quite able to look after his 
own troubles. 

That chilly interview at Chaumont was not the least of Wood's mis- 
fortunes during his French tour. He was struck by a mortar fragment 
while watching a demonstration at the French school of automatic 
headlines back in the States.) On recovering from that wound, Wood 
announced that he intended to stop off in London on his return home, 
but Pershing insisted that he travel straight from Bordeaux to New 
York. His bold attack on the Administration before a Senate com- 
mittee cost him still more supporters in the government. "We have 
piled mistake on mistake," he said, "but the American people are 


aroused. This is their war now, and mismanagement cannot prevent 
them from bringing the full weight of their power to bear against the 

Obviously General Wood would have to be scrapped. But it would 
not be easy. He would resist bitterly and would be echoed by his large 
political and journalistic following. Secretary of War Baker realized 
that sacking Wood would "cause almost as great a controversy as 
McClellan's relief from command of the Army of the Potomac." The 
War Department first tried to have Wood relieved on physical grounds 
he had suffered a head injury in Cuba years ago, had been operated 
on for a brain tumor, and still walked with his left leg dragging but a 
medical board unobligingly certified him fit for duty. The War Depart- 
ment then summarily and rather brutally ordered him to hand over 
his command just as his 89th Division embarked for France. (One of 
those saddened by his comeuppance was Colonel Harbord, who re- 
membered his willingness to debate with younger officers on "terms 
of intellectual if not military equality," although conceding that Wood 
was not "notably discreet.") 

Wood fought back as best he could, undismayed by a letter from 
Baker charging that "it is very difficult, if not impossible, for you to be 
subordinate." He demanded an interview, at which he was visibly 
shaken when Baker informed him that Pershing had said, "There is 
not room in France for both Wood and me." In his conversation with 
Baker, Wood apparently referred to Pershing in a rather threatening 
manner. On June 5, 1918, Baker wrote him, "Since you refer to our 
conversation of May 27, I take the liberty of pointing out to you an- 
other incident in it which left an unpleasant impression in my mind. I 
refer to the suggestion made by you that, because you had protected 
General Pershing's personal reputation in some way in the Philippine 
Islands, he ought now to feel himself under the obligation to take a 
personal, rather than a military, view of the possibility of your service 
in France." Just how Wood had "protected" Pershing, as he claimed, 
was not revealed. It was undeniable, however, that Wood had done 
his best in Cuba and the Philippines to promote Pershing's career. 

No great admirer of Pershing's, General March, by then chief of 
staff, put the final damper on Wood's hopes for a combat command 
with a characteristically caustic comment that "it seems high time that 
meddling political generals be put where they can do no harm." Fur- 
thermore, March wrote Wood, "No backfire on General Pershing will 


be permitted, and you should understand, as a military officer of high 
rank and experience, that we must either support General Pershing or 
relieve him, and we don't propose to relieve him." After that, Wood 
stayed quietly on the shelf. A later and necessarily Republican Ad- 
ministration sent him to the Philippines as governor general. His great- 
est failing was not knowing when to keep his mouth shut; Pershing, 
who knew very well, rose above him with no great edge in ability and 
a great deal less persuasivenessa lesson which might be emphasized 
in every military academy's curriculum. 

It may seem from the above that Pershing had his own way entirely 
in matters of high-echelon personnel. On the contrary, he was balked 
on several such issues almost as important to him as the case of 
General Wood. He wanted to have General Liggett named United 
States representative on the Supreme War Council instead of General 
Bliss, but, as General March said, "That recommendation got no- 
where." Nor did he want March as chief of staff in Washington. When 
Scott and Bliss both went into retirement, General John Biddle, a 
former head of the Army War College and ex-commandant at West 
Point, was named acting chief of staff on Pershing's recommendation. 
Biddle, however, failed to make much headway in clearing up the mud- 
dle and confusion in the War Department. Apparently he had acquired 
his predecessors' fatal habit of trying to deal with everything per- 
sonally. Once Secretary of War Baker found him laboring over a pile 
of charts and making computations on a pad at two o'clock in the 
morning. "You ought not to be doing that," Baker told him. "Your 
part is to do the thinking." 

Somehow Baker was convinced that General March was the one 
officer in the Army who had the energy, the ruthlessness, and the execu- 
tive ability to straighten out the War Department. He kept cabling Per- 
shing almost wistfully seeking March's services, and Pershing would 
reply that March was too valuable in his artillery command to be 
spared. On January 26, 1918, close to despair, Baker finally sent Per- 
shing a peremptory cable: "Can Major General Peyton C. March be 
spared to return to this country as Acting Chief of Staff? If he can, 
direct his immediate return. I feel it urgently necessary to have him. 
Please reply." That pried March loose from his post as Pershing's chief 
of artillery. The latter's reluctance to let him go back to Washington 
may have been compounded in almost equal parts of his high estimate 
of March's ability as an artilleryman and a well-founded suspicion 


that he and March would find it difficult to get along. And Pershing 
was dead right; he and March kept butting heads from then on, and two 
harder heads could not have been found in the service. 

Between March and Pershing there was no sympathy and little un- 
derstanding, perhaps because they were too much alike in character. 
Both were ambitious, strong-willed, incisive. "1 wish March were a 
little more human," Pershing was quoted as saying by Major Palmer, 
ignoring the fact that many complained of his own air of chill reserve. 

March was a trim, energetic, hard-driving man who started out his 
day with dawn tennis matches and was as obsessed with fitness as Per- 
shing. He was ruthless with men less robust and sharp-witted than 
himself and his prescription for a lagging or work-worn officer was 
"Send him to the Philippines!" as Pershing's was "Send him to Blois!" 
Secretary of War Baker recalled in later years that he had learned 
from General March that "when the moment comes to strike, a vigor 
and intolerance of position that amounts to ruthlessness may be neces- 
sary. 1 used to say to General March that he wasted a substantial part 
of my time and he would ask how; and 1 would tell him that I had to 
go around with a cruse of oil and a bandage to fix up the wounds 
which he had made." A less appreciative subordinate said of him, 
"His corpuscles are steel filings." But, as Bernard Baruch observed, 
"nine times out of ten his decisions were right." 

With his neat, peculiarly suitable spade beard and his razorlike gray 
eyes, General March stalked the War Department, tracking down in- 
efficiency, blasting a clearance of its paper-clogged channels, and ruin- 
ing its gentleman's-club atmosphere. He was just as hardheaded as 
Pershing about dumping venerated senior officers. While acting as 
Secretary of War during Baker's absence from the country, he issued 
an order relieving General Scott, his own predecessor as chief of staff, 
as commanding officer of Fort Dix, believing a more active officer was 
needed. He did this, knowing that Scott's brother was a professor at 
Princeton during Wilson's presidency of the university and that Wilson 
himself had suggested General Scott for the post. Wilson did not in- 
terfere, nor did Scott protest. 

One of General March's first objectives was to reduce Pershing's all 
but dictatorial powers as commander in chief in France. He told Colo- 
nel House, Wilson's "gray eminence," that Pershing's "primary duty 
was to command the American Forces in France; that he ought not to 
be allowed to undertake diplomatic work of any kind, and that he was 


peculiarly unfitted for it; that he ought to be freed from anything which 
would militate in any way against his actual command of the fighting 
forces there." He complained endlessly of and to Pershing. Many of 
his cables to A.E.F. Headquarters were phrased so peremptorily that 
they produced a mutinous reaction at the other end. 

The issues between the two men ranged from the matter of the Sam 
Browne belts, which March detested, to Pershing's demand for cavalry 
regiments, which he thought ridiculous. Pershing wanted eight regi- 
ments of cavalry despite the experience of the French and British that 
cavalry was practically useless on the western front. It was a sort of 
boyish foible, March believed. "It must be remembered that he was a 
Cavalry captain before he was a general officer, and naturally would 
have a predilection for that arm." 

March did not propose to humor the A.E.F. commander in this 
regard. He pointed out that the regular cavalry was patrolling the 
Mexican border, that sending mounted regiments to France meant 
fitting out additional transports with horse stalls and would necessitate 
space-consuming shipments of hay, straw, oats, and grain needed to 
sustain the animals. In opposing any sizable cavalry force for the 
A.E.F., March pointed out that the French had ten idle cavalry divi- 
sions and that the British had "135,000 cavalrymen eating their heads 
off" in reserve. He also believed that supporting a huge cavalry army 
had weakened Russia to the point of collapse. "The Cavalry arm was 
a gigantic incubus on the neck of the proletariat of Russia which 
finally drove it to the breaking point." He could not agree with Per- 
shing's theory that cavalry might be employed as the pursuit arm even 
in open warfare. 

That he succeeded in balking Pershing on this score was not the 
least of March's services. It took some doing, for almost to the end of 
the war Pershing kept riding his pet hobbyhorse. He also maintained 
a close inspection of the horses being sent to France for transport and 
hauling guns, much to March's annoyance. "I will not dwell," March 
acidly remarked, "on Pershing's cable bitterly protesting that the horses 
shipped him were not reached, or other minor eccentricities of the 
day's work." 

It was the chief of staff's overriding ambition to impress the fact 
that, according to the regulations, he was the A.E.F. commander's 

Pershing, in the opinion of Major Palmer, admired March's qualities 


as a "driver," but even this tempered enthusiasm was not requited. 
March's tongue "had no less sharp an edge with his stenographer at 
his elbow, writing a cable to the commander in France, than it had 
when he had an officer on the carpet for castigation." Even though 
his temper "momentarily flamed," Pershing never would allow a "reply 
in kind to March." Much of the rub may have come from the fact 
that March was nominally, but only nominally, Pershing's superior 
as chief of staff, although he had been Pershing's subordinate as the 
A.E.F.'s chief of artillery. The two men were never able to agree on a 
clear division of authority between them, which made it necessary for 
the Secretary of War, as the superior of both, to act as referee and 

March, in his memoir, The Nation at War, made no secret of his 
belief that a better commander could have been chosen for the A.E.F., 
nor that he himself might well have filled that role more capably. He 
claimed that Pershing's disrespectful attitude toward Marshal Foch 
was simply a symptom of his fear of men of greater ability. "Pershing 
tries to tell us that Foch was a mere strategist, as if the knowledge of 
strategy were a disqualification. . . . General Pershing's differences 
with Foch during the war were accentuated by a profound ignorance 
of the French military policy, curious in a regular officer of such high 
rank, and peculiarly unfortunate in one whose position, which brought 
him into daily association with the French military leaders, demanded 
the most exact knowledge on his part of every phase of the French 
military effort and character." March blamed Pershing's blind spots 
on his jump from captain to brigadier, because if he had advanced 
through the grades like most officers "his experience in handling larger 
bodies of men would have increased with his increase in rank. . . . 
He lost all this training as a soldier by being jumped over all those 
grades, and this experience is the very foundation of a complete knowl- 
edge of the art of war and of the command of men." General March 
chose to ignore the fact that Pershing had commanded formations of 
all sizes and varieties in the West, in the Philippines, and in Mexico, 
and that he had been chosen to lead the A.E.F. precisely because he 
had succeeded in every command, whether it was a cavalry troop or 
a division. 

Harbord, who was frequently caught in the cross fire between Per- 
shing and March, credited the latter with "tremendous driving force, 
notably in getting men and munitions to Europe," Pershing with being 


"too good a soldier" to allow March's abrasive temperament to "sway 
his official attitude of scrupulous punctilio," To March's claims for a 
larger share of the credit for the eventual victory, Harbord supplied a 
coolly judicious footnote: "No successful war has ever been fought 
commanded by a staff officer in a distant capital." 

Pershing, at any rate, was fortunate in having such a shrewd and 
politically adept man as Newton D. Baker in the office of Secretary 
of War. Baker knew that both men were needed where they were. He 
also realized that March hoped to take Pershing's place as commander 
in chief in France. The Secretary of War killed off that ambition by 
informing March that he would never be sent to command the A.E.F., 
no matter what happened, and that his career was bound up in his 
success or failure as chief of staff in Washington. Nor would Baker be 
influenced against March by hostile emanations from Chaumont. 
March claimed that on August 17, 1918, Pershing wrote Baker "be- 
hind my back" that "while we seemed to have sufficient energy it was 
badly directed, and better results would be obtained if an officer from 
his own staff were put in charge of the War Department General Staff. 
He wanted a rubber stamp for Chief of Staff at home, so he could 
be entirely independent of any supervision or control." March said 
he didn't learn of the letter until after the war or "there certainly 
would have been a showdown." Baker, in any case, ignored Pershing's 
suggestion, as he must have ignored similar jogglings from March. 

As the fateful year of 1918 began, Pershing seemed to be foundering 
under the strain of increasing responsibilities. Late in December Sir 
William Robertson reported in a memorandum to the British War 
Cabinet, following a conference with Pershing, that the American 
looked "older and rather tired." Pershing must have felt the way he 
looked to the British chief of staff because from January 12 to 15 
he had a series of thorough physical examinations. The debility must 
have been superficial. The doctors, he wrote in his diary, with more 
elation than that with which he recorded the armistice, "found me in 
excellent condition and said my heart and arteries were as good as 
a normal man of thirty-five" and that his eyesight was as clear as that 
of "an eighteen-year-old boy" except that he needed "some correction 
for astigmatism." After that he wore glasses occasionally, but only in 
private, since he regarded the slightest physical flaw with intolerance. 

The general's sense of humor, perhaps almost as important as his 


health under the circumstances, was also in working order. Just after 
the New Year, while visiting the Belgian front, he journeyed to Adin- 
kerke to pay his respects to the King and Queen of Belgium. The train 
arrived ten minutes early, and Pershing, as usual, was about ten min- 
utes late in his preparations. 

Pershing and his orderly were still struggling with the general's left 
boot when the train stopped and his aide, Colonel Boyd, came to the 
compartment to announce that royalty was waiting on the platform. 
Pershing said he knew it only too well, as the royal band outside 
was "playing the 'Star-Spangled Banner' in the usual mournful ca- 
dence common to foreign bands/' Colonel Boyd went away but re- 
turned a few minutes later to announce, "Sir, the King is out there 
standing at the salute." 

The situation of a balky boot keeping a sovereign waiting was so 
ludicrous that "for an instant all of us, including the orderly, who 
rarely smiled, were convulsed with laughter." 

Pershing finally conquered the boot and hurried out to the plat- 
form, buttoning his coat with one hand and saluting with the other, at 
which the band "ran through our National Anthem rather more vigor- 
ously, cheered up no doubt at last to see me in evidence." 

He said that both Their Majesties joined in the laughter when he 
explained the situation and that the luncheon a short time later was 
"quite gay, especially when I became bold enough to air my dreadful 

King Albert indicated that Pershing, whatever his lapses in punc- 
tuality, came oft' a lot better than the visiting American congressman 
who had recently slapped the king on the back and exclaimed, "King, 
you're the right sort of fellow and everybody in America admires you." 

11. The Great Gamble 

In the early months of 1918, General Pershing took one of the most 
prolonged and coldly calculated gambles in military history. It was a 
paradoxical role for a man of his character. Nothing in his earlier ca- 
reer, certainly, would have indicated any fondness for gambling on 
the grand scale. All his life he had played it safe; he had never taken 
chances with his professional career, but was a typical Regular officer 
to whom the regulations had a Biblical authority, who lived and acted 
"by the book," accepted and welcomed the safe bounds of prescribed 
doctrine. With no "book" to fall back on, he was now taking risks 
laden with historic consequence: virtually on his authority alone the 
American Army was to be withheld from the battle line until it was 
organized to fight as an independent unit. The French and British, 
seeking to absorb the troops coming from the States battalion by bat- 
talion, infantry and machine-gun units only, were warning that the 
war might be lost if he continued to hold out. Washington was weaken- 
ing in its determination to uphold its commander in chief in France. 
His only legal prop, in fact, was a few words in the presidential direc- 
tive "the forces of the United States are a separate and distinct com- 
ponent, the identity of which must be preserved." 

By the time the scarlet poppies covered the fields of northern 
France, the German armies might have an overwhelming superiority 
over the French and British. Pershing himself estimated (in a letter 
to the Secretary of War, November 13, 1917) that the Germans could 
mass 265 divisions, including forty-eight Austrian, on the western 
front, against a total of 169 Allied divisions. General Ludendorff, the 
Germans' presiding genius in the west, was then congratulating him- 


self that "as in 1915 and 1916" Germany could return to planning on 
"deciding the war by an attack on land." 

If Pershing held out too long, in other words, the Allies might be 
overwhelmed and the A.E.F. would have to be evacuated without hav- 
ing fought a battle. Pershing could then be charged with having lost the 

On the other hand, he could have agreed to the French and British 
claims on his forces, citing the clause in his directive that "until the 
forces of the United States are in your judgment sufficiently strong to 
warrant operations as a separate command, it is understood that you 
will cooperate as a component of whatever army you may be assigned 
to by the French Government." In that case, the A.E.F. would proba- 
bly never have existed except as a hollow shell of command, operating 
in an administrative vacuum; and whatever Americans accomplished 
militarily in the war would have been submerged entirely in the jeal- 
ously competing French and British propaganda. Or Pershing could 
have thrown the whole problem back to Washington, refusing to as- 
sume such an immense responsibility himself. In the Mexican cam- 
paign, after all, Washington had called all the shots, and Pershing had 
not made a move without authorization. No one had criticized him 
for refraining from taking the initiative then. On the contrary, he was 
praised for possessing a fine sense of discretion. 

But if the responsibility was his now, he was not going to shirk it 
or share it or shove it off on someone else. He was sustained by his 
undiminished self-confidence, which Frank H. Simonds (They Won 
the War) defined as the ability to "believe in himself without thinking 
of himself" and which possessed dimensions far beyond mere egotism. 
Several other factors also bolstered his determination: 1) his convic- 
tion that the Germans would fail to achieve a break-through, 2) his 
confidence that an American Army could be organized in time to tip 
the scales in favor of the Allies, 3 ) the fact that most Americans wanted 
their forces to serve under their own flag and command, and would 
have strongly resented their being used as replacements in battle-worn 
French and British divisions, 4) his belief that American methods of 
breaking the trench deadlock, of following the "fire and movement" 
pattern, would prove decisive. 

The Allies had appeared to accept Pershing's program for an all- 
American Army that summer, when he made it plain that was the 
only way the A.E.F. would go into battle, but with the approach of 


spring and the crushing offensives which could be expected from the 
Germans they were obsessed, soldiers and statesmen alike, with the 
necessity of getting every Allied soldier into the line or the reserve po- 
sitions just behind it. Only a wall of human flesh, they seemed to think, 
would stop the enemy's onrush; they had given up hope of outwitting 
and outmaneuvering him. Undoubtedly if Pershing had been able to 
organize an autonomous army by then, nine months after the United 
States entered the war, the Allies would have been willing to hand 
over a sector for its employment they could hardly have done other- 
wise. In midwinter, however, Pershing could muster only four com- 
plete divisions in France, with only the First expected to be combat 
ready by spring. Many more were coming, but the shipping shortage 
slowed their movement overseas. 

Thus Pershing was working toward victory in 1919, while the Allies 
pointed to the increasing possibility of defeat in the spring or early 
summer of 1918. Between these two conceptions, it was obvious, ad- 
justments would have to be made. In pursuit of such accommodations, 
the Allies began an interminable series of meetings in Paris, London, 
Washington, and at various military headquarters in France. 

To his face and behind his back, the Allied leaders maneuvered to 
obtain control of Pershing's forces. The British had now entered the 
game, having what they regarded as a pair of trumps, the theme of 
Anglo-Saxon solidarity and the control of the shipping which would 
bring the American forces to France. They had professed sympathy 
for the American determination to form a separate army, but now their 
generals were piping a different tune. Sir William Robertson, in a 
memorandum to the British War Cabinet, observed that Pershing had 
so many administrative problems that he was "unable properly to 
train or command his troops." In the present state of affairs, Robert- 
son emphasized, "America's power to help win the war that is, to 
help us defeat the Germans in battle is a very weak reed to lean upon." 
Haig was still proclaiming his sympathy with American views to Amer- 
icans but, home in England on leave, he confided to Colonel Reping- 
ton, the London newspaper oracle on military affairs, that he "wants 
the Americans to come to us, and he wishes gradually to build up 
American divisions under our wing and instructions. . . . Haig 
would like to make good our deficit with American recruits. . . ." 

The British then cautiously began advancing their own proposals 
for employment of American troops. Haig suggested that United States 


battalions be used to round out British brigades, now down to nine 
battalions from the standard twelve. The British furthermore wanted 
the Americans to trim the size of their divisions which were "quad- 
rangular," with four regiments and a total of about 27,000 men, more 
than twice the size of the French and British divisions to something 
closer to the Allied standard. Pershing, of course, resisted. The argu- 
ment that America's entry into battle could be hastened by bringing 
its troops over on British ships and inserting its battalions into the 
British brigade structure was now pressed upon General Bliss, the 
United States representative on the Supreme War Council, who obvi- 
ously was a more reasonable man. And Bliss, whose concern for 
American interests was the equal of Pershing's but who was beginning 
to share the Allies' fears of what would happen hi the spring, began 
leaning toward the British views. In a memorandum of December 18, 
Bliss already gave indications of this, writing that amalgamation with 
the British was "greatly to be desired" if "the French could be brought 
to look upon the Anglo-Saxon union as having no ulterior object, 
other than a certain defeat of the enemy." Baker, to whom this memo 
was directed, wrote Pershing a week later a letter reflecting this 

"We do not desire loss of identity of our forces but regard that as 
secondary to the meeting of any critical situation by the most helpful 
use of the troops at your command." 

General Bliss also believed that "our line of military action" should 
be changed to "bring us in closer touch with the British." He added, 
with evident approval, that the British held a "very strong conviction" 
that the "war must finally be fought out by an Anglo-Saxon combina- 
tion," and that Haig "even said that he would give command of these 
mixed organizations to American officers." 

The pressure on the Americans to yield rose to new heights, and, 
as Colonel Harbord wrote, "High dignitaries of Allied Governments 
appealed to the unofficial ambassador, Colonel House, as he tiptoed 
in and out of Europe. General Bliss . . . was constantly besieged on 
the subject. Every device known to advocates and parliamentarians 
was brought to bear. Every argument except, perhaps, the one that 
amalgamation of our men in Allied units and the failure to put an in- 
tegral American Army in the field would obviate the necessity of our 
country having to appear at the Peace Table." The British plan to 
bring over American infantry and machine-gun units, omitting the 


artillery and the supply trains which would make their organization 
into a division, "was not in the general Allied interest," Harbord be- 
lieved, "otherwise, why had it not been oflered before?" 

Now the French entered the lists again, with their new champion, 
the incomparable Clemenceau. It was the aggressive French Prime 
Minister's apparent design to eliminate the problem of Pershing's in- 
transigence by getting rid of Pershing himself; the method was to 
suggest to Washington that Pershing couldn't get along with Petain. 

Pershing thought he had convinced Petain that American troops 
should be trained his way, but according to Colonel Harbord the 
French commander "had not thought it improper to give Colonel 
House the impression that according to his ideas our training was not 
proceeding as it should." (That Petain was going behind Pershing's 
back on more than one occasion was confirmed by an entry in Haig's 
diary the day of a conference at Compiegne [January 24, 1918] when 
he wrote that Petain "told me that he is tired of the Americans, who 
are doing very little to fit themselves for battle." In Pershing's presence, 
however, Petain was invariably courteous, sympathetic, and bleakly 

The differences between Pershing and Petain, Harbord believed, 
were "carried to America as an evidence that we were not in accord 
with our Allies, and synchronizing as it did with all the flubdub about 
the Supreme Inter-Allied Council, it was made to appear as but an- 
other evidence that soldiers cannot get along with each other, and 
thence to the easy Lloyd George reasoning that politicians ought to 
run the war." 

In line with this objective, Clemenceau cabled his Ambassador Jus- 
serand that Pershing and Petain were at odds and Jusserand, as in- 
tended, passed this information along to the War Department, which 
immediately and rather sternly suggested that Pershing make amends. 
Pershing replied that "the French have not been entirely frank, as 
unofficial information indicates they really want to incorporate our 
regiments into their divisions for such service in the trenches as they 
desire." This charge evidently was based on information gathered by 
his chief of staff, for Harbord wrote in his diary at this time: "A French 
officer assured me that while ostensibly training was the object in 
General Petain's mind, what he really wished to do was to reinforce 
his depleted divisions with American regiments. The loss of our na- 


tional identity in the war, the absence of training to our higher com- 
mand, meant nothing to him." 

And now Marshal Joffre, shelved though he was by his own people 
and perhaps dimly resenting it, stepped creakily forward to bolster 
Pershing's determination. Pershing called on the old marshal on Janu- 
ary 26 and found Joffre willing to speak frankly on the differences 
between America and its Allies. Joffre, Pershing said, confirmed "my 
objections to amalgamation," whether with the French or British 
armies, and told him that the French could effectively flesh out their 
divisions by rounding up embusques (men who had avoided service 
on one pretext or another) and calling up the class of 1918, thus hav- 
ing no real need for American replacements. He also opposed absorp- 
tion by the British on the grounds that "orders might be given by a 
British general or his staff that would be resented by Americans, but 
the same orders would be accepted without question if given by an 
American commander. In case of a reverse, there would be the tend- 
ency to place the blame on the Americans." Joffre also pointed out 
that the British had never dared to incorporate their own Common- 
wealth troops in the imperial forces. The marshal expressed himself 
so freely, even indiscreetly, Pershing said, "as an act of friendship." 
It was probably also an act of malice, an old man's resentment at the 
way he was being ignored. 

Secretly supported by the senior French general, Joffre having in- 
sisted that his advice and opinions be kept confidential for obvious 
reasons, Pershing now proceeded to confront Clemenceau on the issue 
of intriguing against him through the French Embassy in Washington. 
He wrote the Prime Minister: 

"May I not suggest to you the inexpediency of communicating such 
matters [as the dispute with Petain] to Washington by cable? These 
questions must all be settled here . . . and cables of this sort are very 
likely, I fear, to convey the impression of serious disagreement be- 
tween us when such is not the case." 

Unabashed at being found out in his devious maneuver, Clemen- 
ceau replied that "contradictory responses" from Petain and Pershing 
caused him to "seek an arbitration" through the latter's superiors. He 
insisted, however, that he had not authorized Jusserand to intervene 
with Secretary of War Baker, though "I do not disavow anything I 
wrote." Clemenceau ended his letter with the barbed promise to "ex- 
ercise all the patience of which I am capable in awaiting the good 


news that the American commander and the French commander have 
finally agreed upon a question which may be vital to the outcome of 
the \var." The upshot was a limited concession by Pershing: American 
regiments would serve in quiet sectors with French divisions until "suffi- 
ciently experienced," then be reunited under American command. 

In advance of the meeting of the Supreme War Council at Com- 
piegne on January 24, the three Allied commanders sat down together 
for the first time. It was not a moment too soon. Until then, wrote Ma- 
jor General Henry T. Allen, who had served with Pershing in Mexico 
and was to command the 90th Division and later the occupation 
forces, there had been much talk among the Americans because "Pe- 
tain, Haig and Pershing have never been in the same room together. 
. . . Petain has" stated that Haig is un imbecile ... he does not rate 
Pershing's military talents at all high." Foch and Robertson joined the 
three field commanders at the Compiegne conference, and a general 
disagreement soon developed. The two French generals could not even 
agree between themselves, Petain stressed the necessity of organizing 
a defense in depth to meet the German offensives expected in the 
spring. Foch, having recovered his faith in a more aggressive posture, 
argued in favor of a powerful counterstroke and expressed the opinion, 
displeasing to Petain as the First Hero of Verdun, that "the German 
oitensive at Verdun was stopped not by our resistance there but our 
offensive on the Somme." Both Allies professed to be astonished when 
Pershing reported his difficulties in obtaining supplies, rail transporta- 
tion, and trans-Atlantic shipping. They proposed no solution for his 
problems, nor did they achieve "real unity of action," as Pershing had 
hoped they would. 

Between then and the crucial meeting of the War Council, General 
Robertson finally spelled out just what the British wanted: 150 bat- 
talions of American troops. They would ship, billet, and supply them 
while they were serving in British brigades. Eventually they would be 
grouped into regiments and returned to American command. Just 
when, Robertson refused to say, Pershing therefore bluntly rejected 
the scheme. 

General Bliss, however, viewed Robertson's plan with an enthusi- 
asm that surprised and probably infuriated Pershing. The latter im- 
mediately took Bliss aside for a private conference, at which each 
general defended his views with vigor. Bliss finally suggested that since 


they couldn't agree, "each of us would cable his views to Washington 
to ask for a decision." 

"Well, Bliss," Pershing replied (according to his own account), "do 
you know what would happen if we should do this? We should both 
be relieved from further duty in France and that is exactly what we 
should deserve." 

Pershing hammered away at his senior until Bliss finally conceded, 
"I shall back you up in the position you have taken." 

At the January 30 meeting of the Supreme War Council, Field Mar- 
shal Haig chilled the marrow of his confreres with the prediction that 
"calculating on half a million casualties . . . the British would in 
nine months be reduced by thirty divisions and the French by fifty- 
three divisions." The British commander also asserted, with a dogma- 
tism equaled only by the inaccuracy of his forecast, that "the American 
army could not be trained sufficiently to operate in divisions this year," 
meaning that for the next year American troops could serve the cause 
only by fighting under foreign command. Under such dire prophecies 
Pershing had to concede that the British should have the 150 U.S. 
battalions but insisted that artillery and auxiliary troops must also be 
shipped, hastening the formation of American divisions once the in- 
fantry completed training. Bliss, keeping his bargain with Pershing, 
"made it as clear as possible that the permanent use of American 
troops . . . would not be permitted." 

Pershing thus had yielded some ground to both the British and the 
French because the A.E.F. could not move without British shipping 
and could not fight without French-made guns, tanks, and planes, but 
he would not yield on the principle of turning troops over to the Allies 
for their permanent employment. In admiration of his lonely stand, 
Colonel Dawes wrote, "The President of France, the British authori- 
ties, Lloyd George, General Blissall arrayed against John mean 
nothing to him except as they present reason. . . . John Pershing, like 
Lincoln, 'recognized no superior on the face of the earth.' " 

Pershing believed his attitude toward the Allies was justified by what 
he divined of their real purpose, which was to engorge whatever Amer- 
ican troops came under their control. He learned that Allied officers 
attached to A.E.F. Headquarters were secretly advising their supe- 
riors to "make every concession in order to get control of American 
units. . . . Among these there was one British officer who suggested 
to his superiors that they should aid us ostentatiously in building up 


a corps, which he thought would quiet the American people, especially 
if we were permitted to wave the flag hard enough." 

Apparently he was unaware of a report by General Rageneau, chief 
of the French mission with the A.E.F., which supported Pershing's 
position. General Rageneau warned his government that insistence on 
combining American troops with the French "would only develop a 
useless tension." He also emphasized that all Americans were "unani- 
mous on this point, from the Commander-in-chief to the lowest officer 
who discusses it. They do not wish to hear any talk about an amalga- 
mation in which the American army would lose its personality." 

For the time being, the integrity of the A.E.F. seemed to be assured, 
and Haig's attempt to have the Americans take over a sector next to 
his armies rather^than in Lorraine, on the other side of the French, had 
been fended off. To maintain this balance between Allied demands and 
American military independence, to bear what Harbord called the 
greatest responsibility ever placed on an American commander, Per- 
shing had to summon up all his energy and self-discipline. "The wear 
and tear on the man was something enormous," wrote Colonel Mott, 
his liaison officer with the French. "The tension lasted eighteen months 
without one day's respite." Only through this expenditure of energy 
was the A.E.F. able to pass something like a miracle considering that 
there were only four organized U.S. divisions, plus the components 
of another, in France early in 1918-by throwing a force of 1,200,000 
men into the Argonne that fall. 

During the seven weeks between the Supreme War Council meeting 
of January 30 and the opening of the Germans' spring offensive, Per- 
shing was constantly on the move between Paris, Chaumont, the sup- 
ply centers, and the training areas of the five divisions now in France, 
traveling by automobile and a special train called the Headquarters 
Special which was completely outfitted for living and working, had 
telegraph and telephone communication, and had its accommodations 
supervised by a former Chicago hotel manager. Random notes in his 
war diary indicated the vigor of his watch over the A.E.F. On February 
10 he sprained a tendon in his calf while leaping a ditch in his eager- 
ness to get on with the job of inspecting the 2nd Division's training 
center. A week later he was back on his feet and descending on the 
26th Engineers at Montigny-le-Roi, handing out "one hour's drill per 
day" to the regiment because "men going about the street presented a 


very slovenly appearance." In the base hospital at Savenay he was 
pleased that the nurses "stood at attention like men." 

He avoided Paris as much as possible to keep the swarm of propa- 
gandists, Liberty Loan orators, and foreign military missions at a dis- 
tance, and possibly also to stay away from the politicking and 
intriguing of the "Versailles Sewing Society," as his staff called the 
Supreme War Council. Only a week before the German armies started 
their big push for Paris, Harbord said, the A.E.F. Headquarters was 
overrun with missions which should have consisted of three or four 
officers but had swollen to sixty and "every excuse seems seized to 
create places that will justify the detail of officers away from troops." 
He was also disgusted with a flood of propagandists from the States 
who came over with the mission of "convincing the gallant French 
of the justice of a cause that they have given more than a million lives 
to defend." Of seven Liberty Loan orators who had arrived that week 
to seek inspiration at the source, only one of them was a man "of more 
than average intelligence, who eats with his fork, is not angry because 
the petits pois are round instead of square, and who seems to have 
heard of the places he is visiting before he came. Only one. The others 
are second-rate businessmen. . . ." 

Secretary of War Baker and a large entourage arrived in France on 
March 10 and were taken on an extensive tour of the A.E.F. Pershing 
and Baker dined near the front at Baccarat, with the roar of German 
artillery shaking the silverware on the table, with Major General 
Charles T. Menoher, commanding the 42nd (Rainbow) Division, and 
his "very good-looking" chief of staff, Colonel Douglas MacArthur. 
They also visited the command posts and training camps of the First, 
26th (Yankee), and 32nd (Michigan and Wisconsin National Guard) 
divisions. If a mere five divisions seemed a paltry effort after the 
United States had been in the war for eleven months and it must 
have, no matter how much the various personages reassured each other 
they could comfort themselves with the thought that another forty- 
five had been organized back home and were awaiting shipment. 

On their return to Paris, German planes conducted a night bombing 
raid on the capital while Baker and Pershing were conferring at the 
latter's residence in the Rue de Varenne. As the two men watched 
the flashes and heard the distant crump of exploding aerial bombs 
from an upper window of the mansion, it occurred to Baker that 
even commanders in chief were mortal and were subject occasionally 


to such dangers as long-range artillery and enemy bombers. Had Per- 
shing given any thought, Baker somewhat morbidly inquired, to a suc- 
cessor in the event of his death? 

Pershing, a trifle startled, replied that he hadn't considered the mat- 
ter but would do so. 

He never brought up the subject himself, Baker said, but the Secre- 
tary of War reminded him of it just before leaving France. Pershing 
replied that he hadn't been "able to make a selection." This was quite 
probably true : it was inconceivable to Pershing that anyone else would 
lead the American forces into battle, and to that extent he was un- 
willing even to consider the possible claims of mortality. The doctors 
said he was in fine shape for a man of fifty-eight, and though he 
claimed not to b superstitious he had a firm belief that the Pershing 
luck would protect him against any stray shrapnel, strafing German 
planes, or automobile accidents. 

Since Pershing never got around to making a selection, Baker de- 
cided that if the eventuality arose he would make a choice among 
three men: Hunter Liggett, Charles P. Summerall (an artilleryman 
soon to fulfill his great promise), and James G. Harbord. After a 
second visit to France, during which interval Harbord had given fur- 
ther proof of excellence both as a staff officer and a field commander, 
Baker decided that the A.E.F.'s first chief of staff was the best man 
to replace Pershing, having exhibited the "poise, initiative, judgment 
and perspective that fitted him for the command of the whole." 

The morning of March 21, Pershing drove to General Petain's head- 
quarters at Compiegne, and the two generals discussed what measures 
might be taken to contain the imminently expected German offensive. 
One measure that would not be taken, although everyone agreed it 
was essential, was the creation of an Allied General Reserve, which 
would have allowed the reinforcement of any strongly threatened sec- 
tion of the front. It was agreed that thirteen French, ten British, and 
seven Italian divisions were to be contributed to the reserve, but the 
British had recently announced they would be unable to spare any of 
their divisions. Instead, Haig and Petain were to support each other by 
mutual agreement. In other words, the Allies again were relying on the 
illusion of "co-operation." 

While the two generals were talking, they heard a low rumbling 
noise coming from the north, the direction of the battle line. It sounded 


like someone shifting large pieces of furniture in a nearby house. The 
maps on Petain's office walls fluttered from the vibration. Petain's 
desk furnishings were joggled as the rumbling noise increased slightly 
in volume. Was it the long-awaited bombardment signaling the start 
of the German offensive? They listened anxiously, all considerations 
of strategy drowned out by the distant booming of the guns. In a few 
minutes their apprehensions were confirmed as the telephone lines 
from various army headquarters started ringing. The greatest crisis of 
the war was at hand. Between the Oise and the Scarpe, on a forty- 
mile front, the Germans were attacking the British Third and Fifth 
armies in a "maneuver of rupture" which they hoped would crack the 
Allied front wide open. 

For months Ludendorff and Hindenburg had been planning to 
strike a decisive blow before the bulk of the American forces could 
arrive. The east had been secured by the Brest-Litovsk Treaty with 
Soviet Russia and by the occupation of the Ukraine. Their greatest 
obstacle to complete victory was the 4,000,000 men raised by the 
United States. At the moment Germany had a slight superiority in 
troops on the western front, and Ludendorff believed this advantage 
must be exploited before summer. He concentrated 192 divisions in 
the westconsiderably less than the 265 Pershing had predicted, since 
he called on the Austrians for only a few divisions and planned a 
series of triphammer blows to crack the hinge between the French and 
British armies, drive the British forces out of Flanders, and capture 
the Channel ports which were their life line to the home islands. Hoff- 
mann, now commander in the east, was amazed that Ludendorff did 
not concentrate all his forces on one overwhelming blow and bluntly 
told Ludendorff, "Your Excellency, any cadet who tried to solve the 
problem in such a way would flunk his examination." Gambler though 
he was, Ludendorff couldn't be persuaded to risk everything in a one- 
shot effort. He wanted to pick up half a dozen victories, hoping they 
would add up to an Allied catastrophe. Hoffmann's prescription 
would probably have won the war for Germany; it was the Allies' 
good fortune that the brandy-fumed but clear-thinking brain of Hoff- 
mann was never employed on the western front. 

In a dense fog on the morning of March 21, two German armies, 
including many of the sixty-four divisions which Pershing said were 
specially trained in the mobile-warfare tactics he had been advocating 
for his own army, launched their attempt at a break-through. They 


were preceded by a hurricane bombardment supervised by an elderly 
artillery colonel named Briichmuller, who had been brought out of 
retirement by General Hoffmann and whose uniquely ferocious tech- 
nique of concentrating his guns in a short but shattering explosion 
of effort had been eminently successful on the eastern front. The bom- 
bardment wrecked the British forward positions. German infantry 
overran the first lines of the British defense and tore a huge gap in the 
Allied lines. In succeeding days the Germans gouged out a salient 
forty-five miles wide and fifty-five miles deep, wrecking Gough's Fifth 
British Army and taking 90,000 prisoners. 

Now the front was ruptured, with the German assault divisions 
heading for Amiens and beginning to drive a wedge between the French 
and British armies* Paris itself was brought under bombardment by 
huge cannon (the "Big Berthas") with a seventy-mile range. 

The Allied reaction, especially from the French side, was anything 
but bold or decisive. Now was the time to counterattack on the flanks 
of the German salient, but Petain moved eleven divisions toward the 
gap hi the British line so slowly and deliberately that it was obvious 
he was more concerned with covering the approaches to Paris than 
succoring his allies, and he was not up to the bold gesture of a counter- 
attack. The Germans halted hi their advance toward the vital nerve 
center of Amiens largely through a loss of momentum; there was little 
else to stop them, and if they renewed their attacks quickly the French 
left flank would be torn from the British right. 

Pershing couldn't understand "why the British and French should 
not have had a larger number of reserve divisions within easy reach 
of the point of juncture. . . . Certainly it seemed logical that the en- 
emy would endeavor to separate the two armies by attacking at that 
point. . . . The French staff seemed to fear that their front might be 
the German objective, and this might account for the lack of French 
reserves near the junction of the two armies." 

But the Allies weren't asking for Pershing's advice. When he went 
to Petain's headquarters to offer whatever help he could, the French 
commander, who "wore a very worried expression," hesitated over 
how the American forces might be employed and said, in effect, he 
would think it over. Meanwhile, Petain tried to cheer up his armies 
with an appeal to hold their ground. "Our comrades," he proclaimed, 
meaning the Americans, "are coming. All together you will throw your- 
selves upon the invader." 


The need for co-ordination of the Allied defense was so painfully 
obvious five days after the beginning of the German offensive that 
the Allied leaders held an emergency meeting on March 26 at Doul- 
lens, behind the British front. Present for the British were Lord Milner, 
the new Secretary of State for War; General Sir Henry Wilson, who had 
superseded General Robertson as chief of the Imperial General Staff 
the month before; and Field Marshal Haig and for the French, Cle- 
menceau, Foch, and Petain. The Americans were not invited to attend. 
The main order of business was a document, signed by the participants, 
which read, "General Foch is charged by the British and French Gov- 
ernments with the coordination of the action of the Allied Armies on 
the western front. He will make arrangements to this effect with the 
two Generals-in-Chief, who are invited to furnish him with the neces- 
sary information." This was the first step toward making Foch the 
Supreme Commander. It was grudgingly taken. The minds of the gen- 
erals who were to be subordinate to Foch swarmed with inner reser- 

Haig, hi his diary, expressed his distaste for Foch's expansive the- 
orizing on the virtues of the offensive, which he believed were imprac- 
tical because "we have not the forces." He also noted that neither 
Clemenceau nor Petain were very keen on the voluble little man. "It 
was evident that Petain thought little of Foch, and that there is con- 
siderable friction between them." Haig also overheard Clemenceau 
"rather bitterly" congratulate Foch on obtaining "what he had always 
desired," and Foch's unawed retort, "A fine gift! You give me a lost 
battle and tell me to win it." 

Pershing himself had always been in favor of a Supreme Com- 
mander, although his liaison officer with French headquarters, Colo- 
nel Mott, said that "Foch could never produce in Pershing the feeling 
that he was no longer a French general but solely an Allied com- 
mander-in-chief." He may secretly have preferred Haig or Petain for 
the post, but Foch was the inevitable choice, having impressed the 
Allied statesmen particularly with his grasp of strategy. 

Two days after the Doullens conference, on March 28, Pershing 
repeated his offer of all his resources to the Allies, but this time in a 
more resounding voice and dramatic manner. This time he saw to it 
that, unlike his offer to Petain, it would echo throughout the Allied 
world. He set about staging his gesture of annunciation with all the 
care of a theatrical producer. The scene at Clermont, the headquarters 


of the Third French Army, was minutely described in his diary, almost 
as though it were a stage setting. He related how he and his aide, 
Colonel Boyd, waited in the garden for Foch, Petain, and Clemenceau 
and "admired a cherry tree which was in full bloom. . . . There was 
not a sight or sound that would make one realize that not more than 
thirty kilometers to the northeast the French were at that moment 
counterattacking furiously. ..." 

Pershing took Foch aside a few minutes later and recited what was 
evidently a carefully prepared statement in French, worded in the 
somewhat grandiloquent, neo-Napoleonic style that Americans fan- 
cied would appeal to their mercurial allies: 

"I am here to say that the American people would hold it a great 
honor for our troops if they were engaged in the present battle. I ask 
it of you in my name and in that of the American people. There is at 
this moment no other question than that of fighting. Infantry, artillery, 
aviation all that we have are yours to dispose of them as you will. 
Others are coming, which are as numerous as will be necessary. I have 
come to say to you that the American people would be proud to be 
engaged in the greatest battle in history." 

Fine, stirring words, and Pershing quoted m his diary the compli- 
ment of his aide that "under the inspiration of the moment ... I 
out-Frenched the French." 

Foch responded with Gallic enthusiasm, more apparent than real 
as it turned out, and "rushed across the lawn, holding me by the arm 
as he went. He told them [Clemenceau and P6tain] quickly what I had 
to say. M. Clemenceau showed a buoyancy and a gleam of fire in his 
face that made me realize why they call him *Le Tigre.' General Pe- 
tain, who has a very unchangeable face and manner for a Frenchman, 
reflected the appreciation of his comrades. They were all manifestly 
touched. ... I left a few minutes later with a distinct feel of admira- 
tion and sympathy for the French generally and in particular for those 

Pershing was so gratified by the attention his offer received that he 
pasted Le Matin's front-page story in his diary, with the blaring head- 



It was a regular Franco-American love feast, that scene in the gar- 
den at Clermont, but it produced nothing except headlines and visions 
among the French people of those stalwart young Americans, whom 
they saw standing in trucks or marching through villages, going into 
the line to relieve their own war-weary men. What Foch wanted was 
not the few available American divisions in the line, taking over their 
own sector under their own I Corps headquarters, but those hundreds 
of thousands of troops which were to be shipped over that spring 
and summer. The western front was cracking, but Foch was looking 
to the months ahead and the dissensions of the peace table, when it 
would be preferable to deal with the British alone over the spoils and 
vengeances of what was, after all, the European war. 

In explaining his refusal to use the American divisions, Foch wrote 
in his Memoirs that France and Britain would not be able to replace 
their infantry losses out of their own resources and "what was needed, 
above all, was that during several months the United States should 
send only infantry to the exclusion of other arms." Foch thus revealed 
his intention of using the military crisis as a means of forcing the 
Americans to agree to the Anglo-French plan for absorbing most of the 
American troops. "It remained to convince General Pershing, who was 
full of the idea of commanding a great American Army as soon as 
possible, although he was not, it is true, fully aware of the urgency of 
our present necessities." 

If Pershing was not "fully aware" of the urgency of the situation, 
he could hardly be blamed when the French were politely shrugging 
off the opportunity of deploying a full American corps in the battle 

On April 3, the Allied High Command gathered again, this time 
with both Lloyd George and Clemenceau present. This time, too, the 
Americans were invited to attend and were represented by Generals 
Pershing and Bliss. 

The meeting at Beauvais, forty miles north of Paris, was convoked 
to settle on General Foch's exact functions, none of the Allied states- 
men being satisfied that the soldiers could be entrusted with submitting 
to Foch's "co-ordinating" until his directive was spelled out and agreed 
upon by all parties. 

Pershing arrived an hour early for the conference and, though not 
ordinarily addicted to Baedeker he strolled around Beauvais with 


Colofiel Boyd, admiring the thirteenth-century architecture of its 

Then, at the Hotel de Ville, the amiable-looking but sharp-tongued 
Lloyd George opened the proceedings with the demand for a "better 
understanding" of Foch's powers to compel co-ordination. Always 
skeptical of the willingness of soldiers to co-operate with one another 
unless it was to their own advantage, he told his confreres: 

"During the last year we have had two kinds of strategy, one by 
Haig and another by Petain, both different, and nothing has been 
gained. The only thing that was accomplished was by General Nivelle 
when he was in supreme command. The Germans have done exactly 
what General Nivelle tried to do." 

These initial remarks caused much inward consternation among the 
French and British military men, who regarded the Nivelle offen- 
sive as one of the great blunders of the war, an operation which, like 
Gallipoli, was inadequately supported and could have succeeded only 
with the utmost expenditure of men and materiel. 

Lloyd George continued: "The Supreme War Council that met in 
February adopted a plan for handling a general reserve, but through 
the action of those concerned nothing has come of it. It is a nullity. 
What has happened recently has stirred the British people very much 
and must not happen again, as the people will demand why it has 
happened and somebody will be called to account. They want some 
sort of unity of command. . . ." 

The British Prime Minister then asked the Americans to state their 
views, probably because he knew they supported his position more 
fully than the French or British military leaders. 

Pershing, brief to the point of acerbity, said there would never be 
any semblance of unity until a Supreme Commander was named. 
"Each commander-in-chief is interested in his own army and cannot 
get the other commander's point of view or grasp the problem as a 
whole. I am in favor of a supreme commander and believe that the 
success of the Allied cause depends upon it. I think the necessary 
action should be taken by this council at once. I am in favor of 
conferring the supreme command upon General Foch." 

It was virtually the only time during the war that Pershing and 
Lloyd George publicly admitted seeing eye to eye on any issue. 

"Well put," commented the long-maned Welshman. 

His own chieftain was less approving. As far as unified command 


was concerned, Haig said, "We have had it." In support of this\amaz- 
ing view, he added the even more astonishing claim that "Geneva! 
Petain and I have always worked well together." 

Petain, agreeing with Haig for once, also thought that the Allies 
could operate efficiently with a co-ordinator rather than a Supreme 

The conference, however, took a second reluctant step toward nam- 
ing Foch the generalissimo of the Allied forces. This time his function 
was officially defined as "strategic direction of military operations." 
But his powers were to be anything but supreme. Tactical control 
would remain in the hands of each commander in chief, who would 
have the "right of appeal." 

Thus the French would be allowed to maneuver as they saw fit to 
cover Paris, for instance; the British could concentrate to save the 
Channel ports, no matter what was happening on the rest of the front; 
and the United States could battle for the preservation of the integrity 
of its forces, come what may. 

No mention was made of the American Army in the original draft 
of the Beauvais agreement, which caused Pershing to protest against 
its exclusion because "it will soon be ready to function" as an inde- 
pendent force. 

General Petain rather ungraciously pointed out that there was no 
United States Army in being "as its units are either in training or are 
amalgamated with the British and French." 

"There may not be an American army in force functioning now but 
there soon will be, and I want this resolution to apply to it when it be- 
comes a fact," was Pershing's forceful reply. "The American Govern- 
ment is represented here at this conference and in the war, and any 
action as to the supreme command that includes the British and French 
armies should also include the American Army." 

He won his point, on this score, but he was not at all satisfied with 
the powers given Foch. Long before Haig and Petain, he saw that 
the war could hardly be won without a Supreme Commander; his col- 
leagues would not be convinced until other crises arose because, as he 
said, "in this case national pride entered to an unusual degree." 

For most of the ensuing weeks, while the Germans renewed their 
pounding at the Allied trench wall, striking next against the British on 
the Lys River near Armentieres and breaking through but failing to 
destroy the defending forces, Pershing did all his righting across the 


conference tables, both in France and England. From then until a 
week before the armistice he would be involved in a constant struggle 
to form and hold onto an independent American Army. 

It seems almost incredible now that only slightly more than forty 
years ago the United States should have been rated so low among world 
powers that its armed forces could almost be cannibalized by its allies. 
Had they succeeded, it may be questioned whether the United States 
would have reached its present eminence. The fact that they didn't 
can be credited only to Pershing; at Versailles and in Washington there 
was a tendency to yield under the Allies' pleas of "urgency," and several 
times Pershing himself was forced to retreat a little, but he refused 
to envision anything but a self-contained American Army. 

American troops were not going to be fed into foreign armies and 
their lives frittered away in the deadlock of the trenches; they would 
fight under their own flag, and only when their efforts and sacrifices 
would result in ending the war. Clemenceau and others found his con- 
cept almost incredibly naive; how could anyone guarantee victory by 
any means, when so many proudly proclaimed methods had fizzled in 
disastrous futility? Undismayed, Pershing clung to his one idea: that 
the war could still be won by overwhelming blows launched by un- 
jaded troops. Anything but a visionary, with a brain which many rated 
as no better than a first-rate post commander's, with his schoolboyish 
distaste for theorizing and distrust of military intellectuals, he was the 
man who saw most clearly what the war and the peace would be like 
without an independent United States Army in the field, . . . 

In the midst of such high-level concerns, Pershing could still fret 
over a button. Colonel Dawes, woefully unmilitary as always, accom- 
panied him to a conference with General Foch in mid-April. Foch had 
just been namedat long last the Supreme Allied Commander. As 
Pershing and his staff lined up outside Foch's headquarters, Dawes 
noticed on the general's face the look of "mingled friendliness, admoni- 
tion and concern which characterizes his expression during some of 
my interviews with his better-disciplined military associates." Dawes 
then became aware of the fact that several of his overcoat buttons 
were undone. Pershing muttered something to his chief of staff, and 
Harbord solemnly went over to Dawes and buttoned up his coat for 
him, whispering, "This is a hell of a job for the chief of staff-but the 
general told me to do it." 


On April 21, Pershing journeyed to England for another go-around 
on the question of troop shipments. The British, understandably dis- 
mayed at their losses in bearing the brunt of the German attacks thus 
far, were going to almost desperate lengths for reinforcements. Fur- 
thermore, Lord Reading, the British ambassador in Washington, 
working constantly on President Wilson and the State Department, 
had obtained Wilson's agreement that for the next four months 120,- 
000 American troops were to be shipped monthly on consignment to 
the British Army infantry and machine gunners onlyjust what Per- 
shing had been opposing so staunchly for so long. 

En route, Pershing and his chief of staff received depressing news 
of the action at Seicheprey, where elements of the 26th (Yankee) 
Division were hit hard in their supposedly "quiet" sector east of Saint- 
Mihiel. The division had suffered 634 casualties, of which 130 were 
prisoners taken by the Germans. A box barrage had isolated a forward 
battalion, which was driven out of Seicheprey, and partly due to dis- 
rupted communications there had been poor co-ordination between 
officers and troops. The disproportionate number of men captured in- 
dicated both poor leadership and dispirited troops. It was not the 
kind of news a commanding general liked to hear at a time when he 
was trying to defend the integrity of American arms. 

He was definitely out of sorts when he arrived in London. The night 
before the conferences were to begin he and Harbord dined at the 
Savoy amid the gleam of white shirt fronts and bejeweled bosoms. 
Later he wrote in his diary of his "annoyance" when the band struck 
up "The Star-Spangled Banner" to grace his entrance and "everyone 
stood up and made me feel conspicuous" as though an American 
general with four stars on his shoulders, whose photograph had ap- 
peared on the front pages for months, could have failed to attract 
attention even from well-bred Englishmen. The Savoy, he conceded, 
was "a very gay place and little like any I have seen in France-people 
very dressed up and no signs of food shortage. We had oysters, soup, 
salmon, chicken, asparagus and soufle [sic], all on a regular menu 

All that nourishment gave him needed strength for the often acri- 
monious meetings with Lloyd George, Lord Milner of the War Minis- 
try, and the chief of staff, Sir Henry Wilson. The British attitude, as 
Lloyd George wrote in his War Memoirs, was summed up as follows: 
"General Pershing, fighting fiercely to ensure the corporate unity of the 


American forces in France, had been successful in defeating every 
proposition which seemed to him to entail a possible threat to that 
unity. . . . The ultimate formation of intact American divisions was 
facilitated as a result of his stand. This would have been poor com- 
pensation had we in the meantime lost the war." The British Prime 
Minister conceded that Pershing was no worse than the other generals. 
"Pershing wanted to fight his own battle and win his own victories with 
his own army. Haig wanted his own offensive on his own front, ending 
in his own breakthrough. Petain wanted to make certain of beating 
the enemy on that part of the front for which he was responsible." 

Lord Milner, according to Harbord, was equally tough-minded. Mil- 
ner, he wrote in his diary, "was born in Germany of British parents 
and seems to have acquired a little of the blood and iron. At least he 
is the most difficult person to bring over that my General and I have 
attempted. He wants all infantry and machineguns, and while protest- 
ing that they all look forward to the day when we shall have our 
American Army on the line as such, is demanding the things that 
will make that impossible, at least before 1919." Harbord's opinion of 
General Wilson, echoing that of most of his colleagues, was that he 
was "a good deal of a politician." 

Harbord was distressed by the fact that Washington had given in to 
Lord Reading's arguments, and "worst of all they commit themselves 
to the agreement and do not tell us about it." He wondered "if the 
President realizes what it will mean to get a division or two annihi- 
lated under the British flag with Ireland in arms against conscription 
and our people none too warmly inclined to the British alliance, and 
our equally strong obligations to our other Allies, the gallant French." 

In the end, as Harbord phrased it, Pershing's "straight back bent 
just a little." The Americans and the British bargained with the ferocity 
of a Levantine market place. Right off, Pershing took the bold stand 
that the British claim to an agreement between Wilson and Lord Read- 
ing on shipping six divisions of infantry and machine gunners was not 
conclusive. He thus indicated that he did not consider himself bound 
by the constitutional commander in chief of the United States armed 
forces, which was just the sort of defiance of civil authority that par- 
ticuliarly infuriated Lloyd George about his own generals. Undoubt- 
edly Pershing took this stand purely for bargaining purposes. As a 
result, each side gave a little, and they finally succeeded in hammering 
out an agreement among themselves. Briefly, the new compromise 


provided that the six divisions soon to be shipped would include vari- 
ous headquarters and auxiliary troops, and would cover May only, 
not the four months the British wanted, and that shipments from 
June 1 on would be subject to further negotiation. 

No one was pleased with the Pershing-Milner agreement, neither the 
participants nor the French, who insisted on their rights to half of all 
U.S. troops brought over. 

More rancorous disputation was to arise in the next few weeks. At 
times the war itself, the roar of thousands of cannons across trench- 
scored valleys and blasted forests, the desperate drives of the German 
infantry toward Paris, the stubborn defense of the heights of the Lys 
and the Aisne, seemed to be only the rattling of an off-stage thunder 
sheet compared to the battles of the Allied conference tables. 

12. Cantigny . . . Belleau Wood . . . Soissons 

In the spring of 1918 the western front was a ditch of blood running 
from the North Sea to the Swiss border, drifted over with cordite and 
poison gas, in which a whole generation was killing itself off because 
neither a means of victory nor an acceptable formula for peace could 
be found on either side. 

The warring world was living a nightmare, the depth and horror of 
which can be recaptured only by those who lived through it. Not the 
worst part of it was the numbing certainty in everyone's mind that it 
would go on forever, even as it was generally comprehended that the 
offensives and counteroffensives each heralded with a glorious burst 
of communiques would result in nothing decisive. All attempts to by- 
pass the western front, with operations on the North Sea coast, at 
Gallipoli and Salonika, or through northern Italy, had failed. 

"There are not two armies fighting each other on the western front," 
as a French writer epitomized the feeling of hopelessness. "There is 
one great army committing suicide." The people of the Allied nations 
and of the Central Powers resigned themselves to the slaughter of their 
youth and to the semi-starvation of their children through the mutual 
blockades. Only a few of the wilder optimists could conceive of the 
war ending, one way or another, by the end of that year. It could go 
on endlessly; perhaps it was only the start of another Thirty Years' War. 

Meanwhile, their leaders were fighting on two fronts, against the 
Germans and against each other. With the ebbing away of the succes- 
sive German offensives, the Allied leaders were getting a whiff of hope 
for the first time since 1914. More than 100,000 spring-heeled young 
Americans began arriving in the French ports each month. Peace and 


its rewards might soon be in their grasp. They had to look ahead to 
how the war would be won, to ensure that their own peoples would be 
comforted, in whatever small and illusionary measure was possible, by 
its results. The British and the French each wanted the victory for 
themselves, naturally, with the oncoming Americans representing the 
force that could tip the balance their way, if only the A.E.F. command 
would not insist on delaying matters by organizing a self-contained 

Polite and judicious historians generally minimize the acrimony of 
that Anglo-French-American struggle over the conference tables, say- 
ing it is bound to arise under the stresses of a military alliance, it 
happens in all wars, it is a small insignificant part of the mutual war 
effort. The statesmen and the generals, in their memoirs, were not 
inclined to shrug it off as part of the game or minimize its historic 
effects. Nor did they temper the bitterness, even when they wrote of 
their recollections a decade or more later hi the shady peace of re- 
tirement. Lloyd George wrote of Pershing that "he could see no further 
than the exaltation of his own command, the jealous maintenance of 
his own authority." Pershing was a rebel against the civil authority, 
refusing to accede to the decisions brought about in Washington by 
British diplomatic pressure. "It was President Wilson's first experience 
of just the same kind of professional egotism as we had frequently 
experienced hi dealings with our own army heads." What really irked 
him was that "Lord Reading told me that the attitude in Washington 
was much more sympathetic to our demands than that displayed by 

As for Clemenceau, he distrusted his own military leaders almost as 
much as he suspected the British postwar plans; Petain, because he 
"foresaw the worst and contemplated withdrawals, of which it was 
dangerous to show troops a possibility" and Foch, because of his ex- 
panding ambitions; he regarded Haig as a typically stolid and unim- 
aginative Britisher, and Pershing as a stubborn fellow of doubtful and 
untested competence as a commander, someone to be shouted down 
or, if he could not be bluffed, replaced through protests to his supe- 
riors. Clemenceau and Lloyd George could agree on one principle at 
least: the war must be taken out of the fumbling hands of the generals. 

They saw that Pershing was the only real stumbling block to their 
separate designs and so renewed their attacks on his position a few 
days after his return from the London conference. Foch, tackling him 


first, told Pershing, "I hope that America may send over as much in- 
fantry as possible during the next three months. The other arms to 
complete your divisions can come afterwards. What do you think of 
that plan?" 

It was, of course, the same old plan that Pershing had been rejecting 
for months. 

"I cannot commit myself to such a proposition," he curtly replied. 
"If nothing but infantry and machine gunners are brought over . . . 
it will be October or November before the artillery and auxiliary troops 
could arrive and we could not foresee the formation of an American 
army until next spring." 

Foch entered an eloquent plea on the theme that "we are in the 
midst of a har*d battle" and warned that the British might be pushed 
back to the sea, the French back to the Loire while the American 
Army "tries hi vain to organize on lost battlefields over the graves of 
Allied soldiers." But Pershing could not be swayed; it was rhetoric 
such as that which convinced him that Foch was largely a man of 
words and gestures and which attracted him, by contrast, to the dis- 
enchanted Petain, with his pale sunken eyes and his pessimistic practi- 

Several days later, in the conference at Abbeville on May 1, the 
Allied campaign to bring Pershing around to a less parochial attitude 
rose in pitch and volume. A whole table of opponents confronted him 
in unison; Clemenceau, Foch, Lloyd George, Lord Milner, and Orlando 
of Italy showering him with their demands and arguments. In his war 
diary, Pershing noted with his customary restraint, "Everybody at high 
tension. . . . Discussion at times very lively." 

General Bliss also attended but uttered hardly a word. He "sat ab- 
solutely silent and gave no support to Pershing," wrote Lloyd George. 
"I heard privately that he has expressed to his colleagues complete 
disagreement with Pershing's attitude." Since the Allies did not hesitate 
to spy on each other when deemed necessary, Lloyd George's informa- 
tion on Bliss's attitude may have been correct. 

The conference opened with a blast from Clemenceau denouncing 
the London agreement on immediate troop shipments "in which it ap- 
pears none are to go to France." To which Lord Milner angrily re- 
plied, "We had no intention of depriving France of any American 
troops. I do not know that anything has been said regarding their 
allotment on arrival in France. We simply wanted to hasten their com- 


ing." Lloyd George pointed out that ten British divisions had been "so 
severely handled that they cannot be reconstituted"; the whole Fifth 
British Army, as a matter of fact, had been destroyed. "They must be 
replaced by new units," the British Prime Minister said, meaning, of 
course, the Americans. Foch, however, insisted that the Americans 
shipped in June should go to the French Army, adding, "I am sure 
that General Pershing, with his generosity and his breadth of view, 
will grant the fairness of this and will extend for June the agreement 
decided upon for May." 

Listening to the Allies quarreling over his army or what he intended 
to be his army if it was not snatched out of his hands, battalion by 
battalion, on arrival Pershing was not at all inclined to be "generous." 

With cold anger, he told Foch: "I do not suppose that we are to 
understand that the American army is to be entirely at the disposal of 
the French and British commands." 

He insisted that the American Army "must be complete under its 
own command. I should like to have a date fixed when this will be 
realized. I should like to make it clear that all American troops are 
not to be with the British, as there are five divisions with the French 
now and there will be two more in a short time." 

He added that he had explained to both Milner and Foch "why I 
do not wish to commit the American army so long in advance. If need 
be, I shall recommend the extension into June. I can see no reason for 
it now." 

Foch tried to pacify him by saying, "Nobody is more for the con- 
stitution of an American army than I, for I know how much more an 
army is worth when fighting under its own commander and under its 
own flag." Even so, he spoke in favor of extending the May program, 
adding that as Allied commander in chief "I believe it is my duty to 
insist on my point of view." 

Unity of command forgotten for the moment, Pershing reminded 
himself that "no authority to dictate regarding such matters has been 
conferred upon General Foch." Thus, like Petain and Haig, he had 
decided that he could stand just so much co-ordination. He was not 
at all dismayed when "all five of the party attacked me with all the 
force and prestige of their high positions." 

He raised his voice almost to a bellow as he declared that the war 
could not be saved by "feeding untrained American recruits into the 
Allied armies." 


He slammed his fist on the table, startling his august colleagues, to 
emphasize his point. 

Hoping that a more personal appeal might work, Foch and Milner 
took Pershing into an adjoining room, away from the three Prime Min- 
isters, their aides and secretaries. But Pershing only restated more force- 
fully his opinion that the Allied scheme would "neither relieve the 
situation nor end the war/' 

With all the theatricalism at his command, Foch asked, "You are 
willing to risk our being driven back to the Loire?" 

"Yes," Pershing retorted, "I am willing to take that risk. Moreover, 
the time may come when the American army will have to stand the 
brunt of this war, and it is not wise to fritter away our resources in this 
manner. The morale of the British, French and Italian armies is low, 
while as you know that of the American army is very high. It would be 
a grave mistake to give up the idea of building an American army hi 
all its details as rapidly as possible," 

Lloyd George, Clemenceau, and Orlando then rejoined the other 
three, and Pershing overheard Lord Milner, "hi a stage whisper be- 
hind his hand," tell Lloyd George: 

"It's no use. You can't budge him an inch." 

When the Allied leaders renewed their demands that he yield on the 
troop issue, he brought the first day's session to a close by getting to his 
feet and announcing, "Gentlemen, I have thought this program over 
very deliberately and will not be coerced." 

Then he stalked out, his cavalry boots clattering defiantly over the 
parquet floor. 

Next day Lloyd George was even more vociferous, if not insulting 
in his remarks, and was quoted by Pershing as saying that "if the war 
is lost it would be lost honorably by France and England, as they would 
have expended their last for us in the struggle, but that for America to 
lose the war without having put into it more than Belgium would not 
be in compatibility with American pride and American traditions." 
Foch spoke ominously of hoping to hold out until August. In his cool, 
almost contemptuous reply, Pershing reminded them that "America 
declared war independently of the Allies and she must face it as soon 
as possible with a powerful army ... the morale of our soldiers de- 
pends upon their fighting under our own flag. America is anxious to 
know where her army is. The American soldier has his own pride, and 
the time will soon come when our troops, as well as our Government, 


will demand an autonomous army under the American High Com- 
mand. . . . That is all I can agree to at present. ..." 

The Supreme War Council, confronted by Pershing's blunt refusal 
to compromise, had no alternative but to produce an agreement that 
"an American army should be formed as soon as possible under its 
own commander and under its own flag." Pershing had it in writing 
now and would never let anyone forget it. The Allies also conceded 
that the U.S. troops serving as a blood transfusion to the French and 
British armies were to be "withdrawn and united with their own artil- 
lery and auxiliary troops into divisions and corps at the discretion of 
the American commander-in-chief after consultation with the com- 
mander-in-chief of the Allied Annies in France." That clause, too, 
would be recalled by Pershing on more than one occasion. 

The Abbeville agreement as a whole, however, turned out to be 
another of those "scraps of paper" scattered like confetti over the 
history of World War I. Only two days after it was signed, Lloyd 
George was cabling Lord Reading in Washington: "Difficulty arises 
over fact Pershing given no definite instructions, only agreement on 
general principles." He admitted the conference "couldn't move Per- 
shing beyond the point of six divisions in May and June" and added 
that "Foch, who is much the greatest Allied general, was intensely 
depressed and disgusted." In a few more days, working through their 
ambassadors in Washington, France and Britain were renewing their 
campaign behind Pershing's back to nullify the Abbeville agreement 
and increase the priorities on U.S. infantry and machine-gun units. 

Haig, meanwhile, was plotting his own raid on the A.E.F.'s re- 
sources. Thus far, the British commander had allowed the politicians 
to conduct the negotiations for American troops, perhaps out of deli- 
cacy of feeling for a fellow soldier whose command was being nib- 
bled away, perhaps out of sympathy with a comrade in the subtle 
resistance movement against the Supreme War Council. Clemenceau 
wrote that when Haig himself was presented with the idea of a Supreme 
Commander and the necessity of submitting himself to foreign dictates 
he had "jumped up like a jack-in-the-box" and proclaimed, "I have 
only one chief, and I can have no other. My King!" 

Now, quite willing for Pershing to forget his own more diffuse loyal- 
ties, Haig wrote the American commander a one-paragraph letter ask- 
ing him for the loan of 10,000 artillerymen as casually as a housewife 
seeking to borrow a cup of sugar from a neighbor. Concealing his 


irritation, Pershing offered a mere six batteries to be "trained and em- 
ployed by complete units." That wasn't at all what the British wanted; 
their demand was for Americans in job lots, 10,000 or a 100,000 at 
a crack, and they would not be fobbed off with smaller packets made 
up according to Pershing's wishes. The offer was declined. 

On May 30, preceding another session of the Supreme War Council, 
Pershing was taking a less enthusiastic view of the Briton than he had 
previously held, noting that Haig "showed a disposition to criticize the 
French for their unsuccess in meeting the German offensive between 
Soissons and Rheims. ... He admitted that criticism on his part was 
not quite in place and that he was only saying this to me and that he 
was going to play the game and do what they told him because he 
realized the importance of this." Pershing thought Haig's carping 
"rather remarkable" considering the "events that took place two 
months ago on the British front." 

The meeting of the War Council, largely occupied with demands for 
more American troops, was as Pershing said "very erratic." The 
French and British, incredible as it may seem, could not even agree on 
how many divisions they had at the front, Foch claiming the total 
was only 150, Milner vehemently ticking off 169. They finally decided 
the 162 Allied divisions were in the line. Was it possible that the 
Supreme Commander had actually lost track of twelve divisions, the 
equivalent of a whole army? Undismayed by the faultiness of his 
arithmetic, Foch presented the council with a scheme for bringing over 
250,000 troops in each of the months of June and July, although 
Pershing objected strenuously to drawing on men with "only one 
month's training." To the unimpressed Pershing, General Foch was 
overdoing the dramatics. "General Foch flung his hands in wild ges- 
tures and kept repeating, 'La bataille, la bataille, il n'y a que <;a qui 
conte.'" After two days of wrangling, a compromise was reached 
whereby Pershing would determine the composition of about one fifth 
of the 250,000 troops to be shipped over in June, 110,000 of the 
250,000 in July. And again neither party to the agreement was pleased 
with it. ... 

For both Foch's excitability and Pershing's confidence in council 
there were good reasons. The Germans' third offensive was aimed at 
the French, and they were reeling back in confusion and defeat. The 
Americans, on the other hand, were meeting the test of battle in their 
first large-scale engagements. 


The first two German offensives, across the Somme and the Lys, 
had gained considerable ground, smashed the Fifth British Army be- 
yond repair, and placed the British hi a critical situation, but they had 
not been decisive. The third blow feU on the French, and they were 
poorly prepared for it. In attempting to meet it, the Allies, for all their 
intelligence and reconnaissance apparatus, failed miserably at divining 
where it would be directed. Haig thought it would strike the British 
on the Arras front, Foch that the Montdidier-Noyon area would be 
the target. A reserve officer at A.E.F. Headquarters, Major S. T. Hub- 
bard, Jr., the Americans' expert on the German order of battle, re- 
peatedly warned Petain's headquarters that all signs indicated the Ger- 
mans would attack in the Aisne sector, on the Chemin des Dames, 
but Foch was so convinced that the offensive would not be launched 
east of Soissons that he sent three battle-worn British divisions to hold 
that part of the line and rest "in a quiet place." The French were so 
complacent about that sector that they failed to conduct trench raids 
or order aerial mapping of the enemy positions, even though Major 
Hubbard's study of the movement of German reserve divisions showed 
a strong build-up in that area. 

On May 27 the enemy attacked with forty-two divisions, spear- 
headed by tanks, and was astonishingly successful. Sixty-five thousand 
French surrendered; the others fled so precipitously that bridges over 
the Aisne were left intact for the German advance. Three days later 
the Germans reached the Marne again. The war had retrogressed, 
from the Allied standpoint, to 1914. 

A day after the German offensive began, the American First Divi- 
sion went into action at Cantigny. 

It was the Americans' first offensive action of the war, and Pershing 
was determined that it would be successful. The operation had to 
succeed, partly as a boost to morale back home and in the A.E.F. , but 
most of all to convince the Allies that the American combat efficiency 
was not mere boasting (and there had been plenty of that wherever 
Americans congregated). Pershing had sent the First, the best-trained 
of all his divisions and the longest in France, to the front some weeks 
before, after assembling its officers and giving them the kind of inspira- 
tional address that came unexpectedly from the tight-lipped man they 
called "Black Jack." In essence, his speech was a reminder that they 
were to fight as Americans, without remembering too much of their 
foreign indoctrination, and he concluded, "In your training you have 


been made by my orders to adhere to American traditions and methods. 
You must hold to these hi your fighting and in all your future action 
against the enemy. They are ours, right, sane, reliable, and will win." 

The First Division, attached to the First French Army, was assigned 
to capture the fortified village of Cantigny opposite its lines at the apex 
of the Amiens salient. The objective was important because the village 
stood on high ground and gave the Germans excellent observation of 
the Avre River valley; the enemy had spiked it with machine-gun nests 
and covered its approaches with reserve artillery concealed in the 
woods to the rear of Cantigny. 

After an hour's barrage from both French and American artillery, 
the division's 28th Infantry attacked on a front a little more than a 
mile long, charged on through heavy fire, and captured the patchwork 
of shattered houses which then comprised Cantigny. 

The German reaction was swift and furious, the enemy pouring in 
two immediate counterattacks, but the Americans were ordered by 
Pershing to "hold on at all costs" and stood their ground. A transcript 
of a telephone conversation between a German staff officer at G.H.Q. 
and the chief of staff of the corps in the Cantigny sector indicated how 
seriously the enemy took the breach hi their lines. 

STAFF OFFICER The failure of the counterattack at Cantigny is 
very depressing. 

CHIEF OF STAFF Our infantry had to get out again. 

STAFF OFFICER New attacks must be carefully prepared. 

CHIEF OF STAFF The counterattack has now been slated for 
June 6. 

STAFF OFFICER Why delay so long? The counterattack must take 
place as soon as possible. 

The 28th Infantry, reinforced by a battalion from the 18th, held onto 
Cantigny despite heavy bombardments from the enemy artillery. They 
dug in so stubbornly, in fact, that the Germans called off any plans for 
an all-out counterattack, realizing it would cost more than Cantigny 
was worth to retake the battered village. Pershing visited the First 
Division's command posts a short time later, and General Bullard, the 
division commander, recalled that he was "on his mettle over the 
American success but still burning inside over the aspersions cast on 


the American willingness to fight." They discussed their relations with 
the Allies at length. 

Bullard, in his memoirs, quoted Pershing as asking him, "Do they 
[the French] patronize you? Do they assume superior airs with you?" 

"No, sir, they do not," General Bullard replied. "I have been with 
them too long and they know me too well." 

"By God, they have been trying it with me," Pershing said vehe- 
mently, "and I don't intend to stand a bit of it." 

Pershing's touchiness about French attitudes came to the surface 
several other times that spring. When M. Tardieu, the head of the 
Franco-American Committee on supply procurement, ventured criti- 
cisms of the American General Staff system at a conference, Pershing 
rounded on him and suggested with more than his usual abruptness 
that Tardieu had better worry about his own army. And on a tour of 
American forces in the Belfort area, he visited the headquarters of 
General Paulinier, commanding the XL French Corps, and General 
Pichet, 10th French Division, at Valdons, and expressed his annoyance 
because both generals "seemed quite surprised that the Americans 
should know anything at all." (Pershing was equally displeased with 
some of his regimental commanders on that tour, recording that the 
colonel of the 127th Infantry "had spots on his clothing and did not 
have very much grasp of his real duties," the commander of the 307th 
Infantry "answered in vague terms questions concerning his sector," 
and the commander of the 128th Infantry "didn't seem to have much 
grasp of his functions." Vagueness and sloppiness were two faults that 
Pershing couldn't abide; sharp of eye and tongue, he soon weeded out 
such officers, often on the basis of a very short interview, and packed 
them off to Blois. ) Later on, he told off General Tom Bridges of the 
British Army, who had been head of the British mission in Washington 
the year before and apparently regarded himself as the godfather of the 
A.E.F., for suggesting a number of major changes in his army. "He 
has been trying to advance his ideas on a machinegun corps, and 
thought of meddling with repartition of the line on the Western Front," 
Pershing wrote in his diary. "I told him that I did not propose to have 
any more instruction with the Allies; that I consider some of the in- 
struction which we had received from the British to be a positive det- 
riment; that I do not care to have the British instruct my men as they 
instruct their own. . . ." He was particularly distressed, he explained, 


by the British practice of attacking a strongpoint rather than flanking 
it, which he regarded as "behind the times." 

The amount of "instruction" offered by the Allies soon diminished 
under the pressure of events. 

On May 30, alarmed by the depth and speed of the German pene- 
tration, Petain asked for American reinforcements in the region of 
Chateau-Thierry, on the Marne. Four French divisions and three Brit- 
ish had been shattered, the entire French reserve had been committed, 
and Petain was desperate for reinforcements to plug the gap. Pershing 
immediately handed over the 2nd and 3rd divisions, which had been 
in training near Chaumont. 

The immediate danger point being Chateau-Thierry, General Dick- 
man of the 3rd -Division rushed his 7th Machine Gun Battalion to 
that town in a truck convoy the afternoon of May 31, while the in- 
fantry and engineers boarded trains that night for the front and their 
supply train moved more deliberately over the crowded roads leading 
to the Marne. The Germans were throwing all their resources into 
forcing a Marne crossing, probing for a weak spot and hitting the 
highroad for Paris. Retreating French troops crowded the roads and 
byways. Yet the Americans moved confidently forward through the 
backwash of a defeated army. 

Arriving at Chateau-Thierry late in the afternoon of May 31, the 
machine-gun battalion was ordered into action at once. The Germans 
already held the northern half of the town, on the other side of the 
Marne, and were trying to force a crossing over the two main bridges. 

Under orders from the French commander on the scene, the Ameri- 
cans set up their machine guns and covered the approaches to the 
railway bridge and the main wagon bridge. Next day, all seventeen 
guns hammering away every time the German assault units approached 
the bridges, the battalion repulsed every attack. That day, also, the 
3rd Division's infantry battalions came up on the double and reinforced 
the French positions for ten miles east along the Marne. Chateau- 
Thierry and its bridges were secured. 

The German thrust in this sector, as it developed, had been a feeler 
rather than an all-out attack. Thanks in part to the American machine 
gunners' furious resistance, the enemy had been persuaded to probe 
elsewhere for a weak spot. It was a job well done, though not the 
salvation of France, as the first dispatches of U.S. correspondents pro- 
claimed and U.S. schoolbooks persisted in maintaining. 


The 2nd Division, taking its orders from Sixth French Army Head- 
quarters, moved into battle more ponderously but with greater impact. 

Sent to the front in trucks and buses, the division commanded by 
General Omar Bundy took up positions to defend the Paris-Metz high- 
way, once trod by the soldiers of Caesar and Napoleon, against the 
German advance from the northeast. Now commanding its highly pro- 
fessional Marine Brigade was Brigadier General James G. Harbord, 
who had departed as Pershing's chief of staff in mid-May, Pershing 
hated to part with him, valuing not only his superior abilities but his 
tact and amiability, but he knew that Harbord needed experience with 
a line command to advance his career. Harbord was considerably more 
cheerful at the parting than his chief, writing in his diary the day of 
his severance from G.H.Q.: "It is fine to be able to know that your 
duty lies in certain established lines, and that your meals will be served 
when the hour comes, etc. I admire General Pershing more than any 
other officer in the army, but his utter lack of consciousness of time 
and his irregular habits are extremely trying." Harbord was replaced 
by Major General James W. McAndrew, a West Pointer who had 
been two classes behind Pershing, whose personality was best summed 
up by his nickname of "Dad." McAndrew performed ably in that 
post to the end of the war. 

As the Marine and Regular Army brigades hurried forward to in- 
terpose themselves between their allies and the onrushing Germans, 
the French appeared to Harbord to be utterly demoralized. "We passed 
a great many French officers and men, but all going from and none 
towards the front. All afternoon they passed, that motley array which 
characterizes the rear of a routed army." The French, he said, were 
pulling back at the rate of one to ten miles a day, depending on the 
pressure from the enemy, and "no unit along their whole front had 
stood up against the Germans." The 2nd Division took on the job 
not only of halting the German offensive in its tracks but retaking 
positions which had been occupied by the enemy. It moved into line 
under circumstances that would have been disheartening to more ex- 
perienced troops, deploying across the Paris highway near Lucy-le- 
Bocage June 1, taking the place of two French divisions which then 
fell back through the American positions. 

Harbord was intensely disgusted with the French, who failed to 
supply the American command with maps of the tangle of rain-soaked 
forests in which his troops were deployed because neither the Deux- 


ieme Bureau (Intelligence) nor the Topographical Section could agree 
on which was responsible for mapping the region. "It will be a wonder 
if we do not feel as much like fighting them as the Germans before 
the war is over/' Harbord groused in his diary. 

On June 4 the German spearheads began battering at the 2nd Divi- 
sion, but the Americans stood firm under alternate pounding by the 
enemy artillery and fierce assaults by the infantry. Two days later the 
Americans went over to the offensive and in six days of fighting at 
Vaux, Bouresches, the Mares Farm, on Hill 142, they drove the Ger- 
mans out of Belleau Wood, wrecking four enemy divisions in the proc- 
ess. Harbord wrote that his men individually charged German ma- 
chine guns, killed their crews, and kept on going, and "literally scores 
of these men have* refused to leave the field when wounded." In return, 
the division took almost 10,000 casualties. 

After a solid month of fighting, the 2nd consolidated its positions 
on high ground captured from the enemy and was relieved by the 26th 

The 2nd and 3rd divisions were only two of the forty-five Allied 
divisions engaged in blunting that third German offensive. Their feats 
were somewhat exaggerated in the U.S. press, which insisted that they 
had "held" the Marne and "saved" Paris, but there was real signifi- 
cance in one factor of the Americans' first large-scale appearance at 
the front: they showed a combativeness well above the current Allied 
level. The Germans recognized this when Ludendorff, on June 8, 
ordered that "American units appearing on the front should be hit 
particularly hard," and his intelligence officers conceded that the 2nd 
Division "may even be reckoned a storm troop." There was no higher 
praise m the German lexicon. 

Among the French, the third German offensive produced a pro- 
found crisis. Retreating troops and terrified peasantry clogged the 
roads to Paris, and the French Cabinet was considering another evac- 
uation to Bordeaux. There was something like panic in the higher 
councils of the government over charges that Foch had blundered in 
failing to anticipate the attack, in allowing the Germans to assemble 
a huge force behind the Chemin des Dames without trying to break it 
up. The former Prime Minister Barthou told General Harbord at Ma- 
rine Brigade Headquarters of a secret session of the Chamber of Depu- 
ties at which it was stated that "if Caillaux were made Prime Minister 


and General Sarrail given command of Paris, the war would end in 
three weeks." 

Pershing never admired Foch and Clemenceau so much as he did 
in those critical June days when they alone seemed to be determined 
to keep France in the war. On June 9, Pershing wrote in his diary, Foch 
assured him that the French would continue righting even if Paris fell 
and quoted Clemenceau as saying, "Above Paris is France, and above 
France is all the civilized world to save." Pershing was not given to 
emotional gestures, but confessed that "I was inspired to jump up and 
shake hands with him right then and there." 

The next day he cabled the War Department a warning that "the 
possibility of losing Paris has become apparent," and there was a dan- 
ger that the Clemenceau government might be replaced by "a Ministry 
in favor of peace." 

In the minds of many Frenchmen, by then, the war was all but 
lost. Even before the third German offensive, General Petain was con- 
vinced that his forces would not be able to hold the line. Foch com- 
plained to President Poincare that "Petain is intolerable with his pes- 
simism. . . . Would you believe it, he said something to me which I 
would not tell any other living being. This is what he said: 'The Ger- 
mans are going to defeat the English in the field, and then they are 
going to defeat us.' Should a general talk or even think like that?" 

Looking at the situation from a purely military standpoint, Per- 
shing refused to be similarly disheartened. He saw quite clearly that 
the Germans would be unable to exploit their successes and renew 
their drive on Paris unless they were able to capture enough of the rail- 
way net to supply their troops. Thus the enemy launched his fourth 
offensive June 9 in the direction of Compiegne, hoping to open up the 
great trunk lines running from Cologne, but the French stopped them 
with slight ground gains and heavy troop losses. Pershing cabled the 
War Department on June 1 1 that without the rail and road centers of 
Soissons and Rheims "the enemy will be confronted with difficult 
transportation problems, involving the use of motor trucks on sixteen 
roads, for the most part cross-country roads, now available to him. 
. . . The enemy's transportation situation cannot be satisfactorily ad- 
justed until he has taken Rheims; hence the recent heavy attack on this 
important center." He could envision a turning of the tide by the end of 
summer; already there were seven American divisions in the line, and 
forty-six should be available by October. 


The Americans had proved themselves so eminently battleworthy 
in their first confrontals with the hard-pressing Germans that Foch 
wanted an American regiment attached to each French division as a 
stiffening element. Pershing would have none of it. Nor would he allow 
the British to attempt the same maneuver. On July 2 he learned that 
General Bell had assigned ten companies of his 33rd Division to go 
over the top with British units to the north. "I disapproved the whole 
scheme," he wrote in his diary, but the next day he found out that 
the British were planning to conduct the July 4 operation as scheduled. 
He had a member of his staff telephone Haig's chief of staff immedi- 
ately to have the American participation canceled. 

His own officers also got the rough edge of his tongue, sometimes 
without good reason, as he bustled up and down the western front 
on the Headquarters Special or in the khaki-colored sedan flying his 
four-starred pennant, which subordinates frequently thought might as 
well have flaunted the skull and crossbones. On June 21, for instance, 
he swooped down on the 42nd (Rainbow) Division at the railhead 
of Charmes as it was marching back from heavy duty at the front. 
The Rainbow was returning from eighty-two days in the lines under 
British command, having suffered 2014 casualties. It had marched 
sixty kilometers after being relieved, and the uniforms of the men were 
filthy and ragged, their transport muddy and battered, their horses 
gaunt and stumbling with weariness. 

About two o'clock in the afternoon, according to war correspondent 
Frazier Hunt, Pershing and his staff descended on the division's chief 
of staff, Colonel Douglas MacArthur, as he and an aide were super- 
vising the loading of the troops and horses up the ramps of the mar- 
shaling yards. 

Pershing immediately began chewing out MacArthur in a voice that 
carried to hundreds of grinning soldiers. "This division is a disgrace," 
Pershing roared. "The men are poorly disciplined and they are not 
properly trained. The whole outfit is just about the worst I have seen." 

MacArthur was so dumfounded that he couldn't speak. Didn't Per- 
shing know that the men had just come out of the line? 

"MacArthur," Pershing continued, "I'm going to hold you personally 
responsible for getting discipline and order into this division. I'm going 
to hold you personally responsible for correcting measures with the 
officers at fault. I won't stand for this. It's a disgrace!" 

"Yes, sir!" was all that Colonel MacArthur could find to say. 


For weeks after that, headquarters at Chaumont sent inspecting 
officers to rake over the Rainbow Division and incessantly find fault. 
Finally one day a colonel on the inspector general's staff showed up 
at divisional headquarters with another niggling list of complaints. Mac- 
Arthur ordered him out of his office and told him he'd shoot him if he 
ever showed up in the division's area again. There was no more har- 
assment from Chaumont after that, 

Pershing was determined that his senior commanders should not 
linger in comfort well behind the lines but should have at least a mini- 
mal acquaintance with the hardships of the men at the front. He 
ordered that divisional commanders were to visit the trenches in their 
sector at least once a week, a requirement that did not sit well with 
some of the more sedentary generals. Major Palmer heard one dis- 
gruntled division commander growl that "I would like to tell the damned 
fool at headquarters who wrote that order what I think of him" but 
he pulled on his boots and set out for the front. 

With all his burdens that summer of 1918, a certain amount of 
testiness could be expected in Pershing. He was not only keeping a 
watchful and jealous eye on his divisions fighting under French and 
British army commanders but struggling constantly to prevent Foch, 
Haig, and P6tain, not to mention the Allied statesmen behind them, 
from making permanent use of them. His behind-the-scenes war 
against the Allies consumed as much of his energy as the war against 
Germany, and it did not even end with the armistice. In addition, 
there was his war with Washington, particularly General March, and 
the smaller wars within his own command. In a man with a less formi- 
dable arterial system, apoplexy would have been inevitable. 

Not the least of his administrative worries was the Air Service of 
the Signal Corps, as the A.E.F.'s air arm was then titled, nor the least 
of his vexations its chief of Air Service, Colonel William Mitchell, 
brilliant, unorthodox, unawed, and already conscious of his role as 
the prophet of American air power. Imbued with the ideas of Douhet 
and Trenchard and looking to the day when air armadas would be 
decisive in war, Billy Mitchell was not the sort of man to win the en- 
tire trust of a commander in chief who hardly knew a joy stick from 
an aileron and was still dreaming in off moments of delivering a para- 
lyzing blow with horse cavalry. Pershing would never be the patron 
saint of American military aviation, whose pioneers were more in- 
clined to view him as the man who wanted to strangle it in its cradle. 


The Air Service had plenty of trainees at its own and the Allied 
airdromes, but American industry had failed to produce the planes to 
carry them into action. General March, the chief of staff, blamed this 
on "the fact that General Pershing was constantly altering his requests 
for planes. We did not know from day to day where he stood. As soon 
as we got going on the construction of a type which he had stated 
was necessary, a cable would come from him, saying that he did not 
want that type and asking for something else." 

Mitchell blamed it on the earthbound officers of the military bu- 
reaucracy, both at home and in France, and wrote in his diary: "The 
General Staff is now trying to run the Air Service with just as much 
knowledge of it as a hog knows about skating. It is terrible to have to 
fight with an organization of this kind, instead of devoting all our 
attention to the powerful enemy on our front." Whoever was re- 
sponsible, the Americans had to take to the ah" in planes of foreign 

In trying to hasten the development of the Air Service, Mitchell had 
"many heated talks," he said, with General Pershing. Often there was 
"much pounding on the table on both sides." Apparently impressed 
with Mitchell's drive and aggressive faith in his branch of the service, 
Pershing named him a member of the seven-man board responsible 
for formulating an aviation program for the A.E.F. Washington, how- 
ever, ignored its recommendations and sent missions over to junket 
around France and select training centers for the Air Service without 
consulting Pershing. Colonel Mitchell was so disgusted with the roving 
missions that accomplished nothing, the procurement agencies that 
procured nothing, and the A.E.F. bureaucracy that decided nothing, 
that he quoted with approval the jape of a subordinate equally dis- 
gusted with the endless talk: "A conference is a collection of human 
beings of almost superhuman unintelligence, gathered together for the 
purpose of passing a series of resolutions based on their combined ig- 
norance of a particular subject. Every conference has a main bore, 
an auxiliary bore or other bores stationed at strategical points. When 
anybody ventures an original idea it is the duty of the main bore to 
head it off. He usually succeeds." 

The considerable publicity given the various "aces" and the highly 
romantic accounts of the "chivalry" of air warfare, helped along by 
the fact that there were some first-rate writers and publicists among 
the fliers, began to annoy Pershing. Air Service propaganda irked him 


to the extent that on February 28, 1918, he cabled Secretary of War 
Baker: "Newspaper clipping from United States received here to effect 
that U. S. has thousands of fliers in Europe and that thousands of 
American aeroplanes are flying above the American forces in Europe 
today. As a matter of fact there is not today a single American-made 
plane in Europe. . . . Emphatically protest against newspaper public- 
ity of this nature and urgently recommend drastic steps be taken to 
stop publication of such articles." Earlier he had insisted to Baker that 
pay increases for "engaging in aerial combat" must be rescinded be- 
cause flying "involves nothing like the hardships endured by troops 
that occupy the trenches." This made him popular with the infantry 
but contributed to the feeling in the Air Service that, next to Baron 
von Richthofen, Pershing was the American airman's worst enemy. 

Colonel Mitchell's pet scheme was to have hundreds of Americans 
trained at French aviation schools and equipped with French planes, 
then sent to the front immediately, long before the arrival of the in- 
fantry. Pershing undoubtedly saw this as a bold maneuver to reap 
publicity for the Air Service to the detriment of the A.E.F. as a whole. 
It led to those table-pounding sessions which Colonel Mitchell reported 
with relish in his diary. 

He also wrote that "one time he [Pershing] told me that if I kept 
insisting that the organization of the Air Service be changed he would 
send me home. I answered that if he did he would soon come after 
me. This made him laugh and our talk ended admirably." 

Actually Mitchell had allowed himself to be lulled into a false sense 
of security. He thought he had Pershing's number typically crusty old 
fellow who was sick of being yesed all the time and valued somebody 
who'd stand up to him. Otherwise, why could he be cajoled into laugh- 
ing at himself? But Pershing wasn't as simple as the cartoon character 
Mitchell had in mind. The longer that Harbord, as chief of staff and in 
other capacities, knew him the more he was impressed with the fact 
that "canniness" was one of the strongest traits of his character (as he 
remarked in an address before the Army War College in 1933). In 
France, Pershing learned to deal with men more subtly, less forthrightly, 
than in earlier days; it was the almost inevitable result of having to 
handle all kinds and nationalities, of divining human motives in the 
mass of self-seeking, intrigue, and ambition that naturally was attracted 
to his headquarters by centripetal force. 

He must have stopped laughing the moment Mitchell left his office, 


naively convinced that he had charmed the Old Man into an agreeable 

In a very short time Pershing announced a reshuffling of the Air 
Service command which amounted to Mitchell's demotion. He had de- 
cided that he wanted that branch of the service operated as part of the 
Army, not an independent force of airborne guerrillas who would go 
bounding off in their own picturesque way. To head up the whole 
operation he picked General Mason Patrick, an Engineer officer who 
had been at West Point with him and who had almost as much dis- 
taste for newfangled machinery as the commander in chief himself 
(Pershing did not even know how to drive an automobile). In tactical 
command of the Ah* Service would be General Benjamin Foulois, with 
whom Pershing had worked in Mexico. Colonel Mitchell was shuffled 
down to No. 3 man on the totem pole, taking over as commander of 
I Corps' Air Service under General Liggett, who happily shared 
Mitchell's views on the importance of air power. Liggett and Mitchell 
made a perfect ground-air team, a model of co-operation for a later 

Mitchell still kept an eye on the Air Service command headquartered 
at Chaumont, which was soon staffed with non-flying old Regulars who 
thought of war as a pursuit of guerrillas through an island jungle. It 
takes a radical change in perspective to realize now that the A.E.F. 
was built on the foundations of the little army that was trained to keep 
order in the Philippines and chase Villa into the Mexican interior. 
Widening its professional horizon to take in the frightening demands 
of a continental war required a painful wrench, particularly for the 
older officers, many of whom never really made the transition and 
would always look back on the fighting in France as a kind of aber- 
ration. Mitchell, himself trained in the Philippines, had only scorn for 
them and wrote in his diary: "It was bad enough having this crowd 
down in Paris but to bring them up near the line was worse. It re- 
minded me of a story told of old Major Hunter of the Cavalry, when 
General Otis, in command of the Philippines, had taken him to task 
for not accomplishing more. Major Hunter replied that he had two 
hundred men who had never seen a horse, two hundred horses that 
had never seen a man and twenty-five officers who had never seen 
either. This was the state of the entourage with which General Foulois 
had surrounded himself." 


In July of 1918 friction also arose between Pershing and the War 
Department over the Services of Supply in France. Supplies had con- 
tinued to clog up along the rail and road arteries from the ports of 
entry to the front. Major General Francis J. Kernan worked himself 
almost to the point of a nervous breakdown trying to cope with the 
huge and hastily improvised establishment under his command, but he 
was too much of an Old Army specimen, in the opinion of many 
subordinates, to make an efficient executive who could cut red tape 
and get things moving. Pershing had been too absorbed in the more 
active phases of command to give the S.O.S. much attention, but he 
had to agree that General Kernan "has not all the qualifications neces- 
sary for success." 

On July 6, Secretary of War Baker sent him a long and very tactful 
letter on the subject, suggesting that Major General George W. 
Goethals, the builder of the Panama Canal and a somewhat over- 
bearing personality, be appointed to take over the S.O.S. in a status 
equal to Pershing's. Baker wrote in part: 

"As the American troops in France become more and more numer- 
ous and the battle initiative on some parts of the front passes to you, 
the purely military part of your task will necessarily take more and 
more of your time, and both the President and I want to feel that the 
planning and the executing of military undertakings has your personal 
consideration and that your mind is free for that as far as possible. 

"The American people think of you as their 'fighting General,* and 
I want them to have that idea more and more brought home to them. 
For these reasons, it seems to me that it would help if some plan were 
devised by which you would be free from any necessity of giving at- 
tention to Services of Supply; and one plan in that direction which 
suggested itself was to send General Goethals over to take charge of 
the Services of Supply, establishing a direct relationship between him 
and Washington. 

"Such a plan would place General Goethals in a coordinate rather 
than a subordinate relation to you, but of course it would transfer all 
the supply responsibilities from you to him, and you could then forget 
about docks, railroads, storage houses, and all the other vast industrial 
undertakings to which up to now you have given a good deal of your 
time, and as you know, we all think with superb success. I would be 
very glad to know what you think about this suggestion. . . . The 
President and I will consider your reply together, and you may rely 


upon our being guided only by confidence in your judgment and the 
deep desire to aid you." 

Baker also suggested that Pershing's work load could be "somewhat 
lightened by a larger use of General Bliss as a diplomatic intermedi- 
ary," which would simplify "the presentation of inter- Allied questions 
to the President." 

Pershing was willing for Bliss to assume more of the diplomatic 
burden, but the thought of having the abrasive character of General 
Goethals in a "coordinate" position, co-dictator of the A.E.F. in effect, 
was thoroughly alarming. Pershing was jealous of his powers and 
yielded up fractions of them only under the inexorable pressure of cir- 
cumstances or still greater authority. He immediately sat down in his 
office at the Damremont Barracks in Chaumont and wrote out a 
cable to Baker, with "RUSH . . . RUSH . . . RUSH . . . RUSH" scrawled 
in block letters at the top: 

"I very much appreciate your desire to relieve me of every burden 
that might interfere with the direction of military operations. However, 
there appears to be an exaggerated view concerning the personal at- 
tention required in handling details of administration of this com- 
mand. . . . The whole must remain absolutely under one head. Any 
division of responsibility or coordinate control in any sense would be 
fatal. The man who fights the armies must control their supply through 
subordinates responsible to him alone. The responsibility is then fixed, 
and the possibility of conflicting authority avoided. This military prin- 
ciple is vital and cannot be violated without inviting failure. . . . 
When it becomes necessary for me to be constantly at the front I shall 
retain control through the General Staff. ..." 

Pershing was, of course, absolutely right about the principle of re- 
taining the Services of Supply as his responsibility. No modern army 
has ever attempted to make the supply chief co-equal to the com- 
mander. The risk of their working at conflicting purposes particularly 
in the case of Pershing and Goethals was enormous. Baker and Wilson 
soon saw that such a risk could not be taken. 

It was obvious to A.E.F. Headquarters who the prime mover behind 
the Goethals scheme was General March, the chief of staff in Wash- 

General Harbord produced evidence that March not only conceived 
of the idea of sending Goethals to France, as a means of chipping 
away at Pershing's authority and bringing him more under the control 


of the chief of staff, but had told Goethals that he was going. In his 
memoir, General March wrote almost tearfully of Goethals's heart- 
break and disappointment at learning that Pershing had rejected him. 
He also wrote with the bitterness of his own disappointment that "Gen- 
eral Pershing's refusal to have Goethals and Wood as part of his com- 
mand, his sending General Sibert back to the United States, and his 
attempt to get rid of General Bliss as the American representative at 
the Supreme War Council at Versailles, showed clearly a marked fear 
of men whom he recognized as men of great ability/' There was a shred 
of truth in the charge that Pershing was wary of men whose reputa- 
tions and capacities might prove a challenge, but Wood and Sibert 
had wrought their own downfall and Pershing never actually tried to 
"get rid of" General Bliss, annoyed as he sometimes became with the 
older man's tendency to sympathize with the French and British 
points of view on absorbing U.S. troops. March avoided the real 
issue, which, as Harbord stated it, was: "A divided control here in 
France would mean nothing but disaster." 

In any event, Pershing solved the problem of straightening out the 
Services of Supply most adroitly. He called in Harbord, now com- 
mander of the 2nd Division, although he knew that his former chief 
of staff wanted to stay with the troops. Exhibiting what Harbord called 
his "great native charm when he chooses to exercise it," Pershing told 
his former chief of staff that he was "the only officer to whom he could 
turn in the emergency" and cited his fine combat record and the "lik- 
ing which the Secretary of War had taken for me." And what was 
more, but left unstated, Pershing knew he could trust Harbord not only 
to do the job but to subdue any yearnings for a "coordinate" status, 
to remain a loyal satrap administering the vast military corporation 
which was the Services of Supply. 

In July, meanwhile, the Allies began to inflict severe losses on the 
Germans, whose offensive potential had been drained away in the four 
earlier offensives of that spring. The German Army had shot its bolt, 
but Ludendorff lacked the moral courage to admit his gambler's try at 
total victory had failed. He couldn't resist one more toss of the dice: 
on July 1 5 he sent fourteen assault divisions across the Marne. This 
time Petain fell back on a skillfully organized and elastic defense. 
Long-range artillery and aerial bombing wrecked the Germans' bridges 
and prevented them from supplying their advancing divisions. The 


fifth and final German offensive stumbled to a halt within three days, 
when it became noticeable that the vaunted German infantry, though 
still obeying orders, was going forward with only the fatalistic forti- 
tude of veterans, not with the surging hope that wins battles. 

On July 18, Foch launched his well-timed counterstroke to reduce 
the Marne salient and retake the important rail center of Soissons. 
He called on the Americans to spearhead the attack. General Bui- 
lard's III Corps, including the First and 2nd divisions, was rushed 
from rest areas to join General Mangin's Tenth French Army on the 
western face of the salient. Since Bullard's headquarters had not yet 
been organized, the two American divisions were thrown in with the 
First Moroccan Division to form the XX French Corps, although four 
fifths of its troops were American. The frontward movement of the 
First Division, under General Summerall, and the 2nd, still under 
Harbord, who had not yet been summoned to take over the S.O.S., was 
accomplished under the most excruciating circumstances. 

All the night of July 17-18, on trucks and on foot, the divisions 
struggled toward their jump-off positions through the darkness and 
rain, over unmapped roads and through dense forests west of Sois- 
sons. The French again had neglected to supply maps or guides. The 
machine gunners of the Marine Brigade had to carry their heavy weap- 
ons across twelve miles of plowed fields. Only the heroic labors of the 
2nd Division's military police kept traffic moving along the Paris- 
Soissons highway through the forest of Retz. Seven hours before zero 
(4:35 A.M., July 18) only the artillery was in place. "It rained hard," 
Harbord recalled; "the forest was plutonian in darkness; the road, 
beyond words to describe; trucks, artillery, infantry columns, cavalry, 
wagons, caissons, mud, MUD, utter confusion." The Americans had 
neither food nor water, nor had they slept for the previous two nights, 
yet they reached their positions by zero hour. One battalion, in fact, 
had to run the last several hundred yards to its position, reaching it 
just as the barrage started, but Colonel Paul B. Malone, commanding 
the 23rd Infantry in the 2nd Division, reported they "met the enemy 
in an intrenched position with no other weapon than the rifle; yet they 
were completely and overwhelmingly successful." 

The Germans were caught by surprise as the Americans' assault 
battalions, supported by light tanks, advanced behind their rolling bar- 
rage toward the enemy positions in a series of ravines which scored 
the Soissons plateau. Flanking the Moroccan division in the center, 


the First and 2nd divisions plunged into wheat fields on the plateau 
which gave cover to the enemy's machine gunners and intrenched in- 
fantry, tore apart the Germans' forward positions, and broke through 
their zone of light artillery. At noon the XX Corps had captured half 
of the Soissons plateau. Just before nightfall the 2nd Division over- 
came strong resistance around Vierzy, took the town in a bayonet 
charge, and seized the heights of the Crise River; the First Division, 
meanwhile, was storming into fortified farmhouses and finally cap- 
tured Missy-aux-Bois in the murderous twilight. 

German resistance stiffened overnight, but the American-Moroccan 
corps continued to advance doggedly, fighting for every yard of ground 
gained, during the next two days. By July 21, the 2nd Division had 
advanced six miles from its jump-off position, captured 3000 prisoners, 
and taken eleven batteries and hundreds of machine guns; it had also 
suffered 5000 casualties in its headlong attacks. The First had taken 
3500 prisoners and sixty-eight guns and suffered 7000 casualties. Al- 
lied guns now commanded Soissons, and the Germans were retreating 
from the Marne. In other sectors of the Marne salient, American divi- 
sions including the 26th, 4th, 3rd, 32nd, 42nd, and 28th also had 
pushed forward under French army commanders. 

Largely through the initiative of American troops willing to take 
heavy losses, considering the short period in which they were engaged, 
the Allies had managed to throw the German war machine into re- 
verse at last. In those several days of campaigning, wrote the German 
Chancellor von Hertling, "even the most optimistic among us under- 
stood that all was lost. The history of the world was played out in 
those three days." Field Marshal von Hindenburg was equally down- 
cast and recalled in Out of My Life: "From the purely military point 
of view it was of the greatest and most fateful importance that we 
had lost the initiative to the enemy. . . . How many calculations had 
been scattered to the winds!" 

Congratulations were rained down on the A.E.F. "You rushed into 
the fight as to a fete," exclaimed General Mangin of the Tenth French 
Army. Petain told Pershing that "all French commanders were en- 
thusiastic over American troops." 

All very pleasant, but Pershing did not forget for a moment that 
his divisions were still fighting under French and British command. 
The Allies would obviously like to keep everything the way it was, 
with American divisions and even smaller units folded into their own 


forces. Pershing was more annoyed than flattered by the way Haig, 
for instance, clung to the 33rd Division . . . "fine big men," as the 
British commander wrote in his diary, "reminded me of tall Austra- 
lians." Haig thought their officers, however, were "all very ignorant 
of military ways and arrangements and tactics," which their British 
mentors, of course, would remedy in due time. It was just as well 
that Pershing could not then read Haig's joyful entry that the 33rd's 
commander, General Bell, "was very pleased with the way the Eng- 
lish looked after him and his division. . . . The Americans had not 
treated him so well. . . . Bell is distressed that General Pershing won't 
let him take part in our offensive battle. . . ." 

Perhaps Pershing divined that Haig was still hoping to hang onto 
his American proteges. Colonel Mott, who accompanied him on a 
visit to Haig's headquarters just after the successful actions of mid- 
July, recalled that he congratulated Pershing on having been made a 
Grand Commander of the Bath by King George, who was also at 
Haig's headquarters, which led to "one of the worst breaks I ever 
made with the General." 

Colonel Mott jocularly remarked, "Well, I suppose I can call you 
Sir John now." 

Pershing, he said, "jumped on me like a tiger." 

Many Americans were not too happy with their other Allies, either, 
Bullard citing bitterness among his countrymen brigaded with the 
French Sixth Army during the Aisne-Marne counteroffensive which 
was "due very largely to the Americans' belief that the French would 
not stand beside them in front of the enemy. . . . Attacks would start 
in due form, but the French troops had the wisdom always to stop 
before annihilation. In this they were most skillful. Long experience 
had taught them how to save themselves. American troops, doing the 
same thing beside them, lost twice as many men." 

On July 24, Foch and the three commanders in chief met at Bom- 
bon to consider the generalissimo's plans for pursuing eventual vic- 
tory. In brief, the first phase of his program was to drive the Germans 
out of the Marne, Lys, Amiens, and Saint-Mihiel salients and re- 
establish the rail communications needed to supply the Allied armies 
for the final drives toward the Rhine. The second phase would con- 
sist of a general offensive designed to end the war in the summer of 

The answers of the three commanders in chief to Foch's question 


regarding their readiness aptly summed up the moral and physical 
potential of each: 

MARSHAL HAIG "The British army, entirely disorganized by the 
events of March and April, is still far from being re-established." 

GENERAL PETAiN "The French army, after four years of war and 
the severest trials, is at present worn out, bled white, anemic." 

GENERAL PERSHING "The American army asks nothing better than 
to fight, but it has not yet been formed.", 

Pershing emphasized to his colleagues that he was strongly con- 
cerned that with 250,000 Americans now arriving monthly five U.S. 
divisions were fighting under the British and the rest under the French. 
He was assured that the formation of an independent American Army 
was "contemplated," and that the reduction of the Saint-Mihiel sali- 
ent, as one of the initial steps toward taking the general offensive, 
would be an exclusively American assignment. 

Allied "contemplation" of his demands was no longer good enough, 
now that his troops had proved themselves in battle. 

He pointed out, before the conference adjourned, that until an in- 
dependent American Army was formed "our position before the peo- 
ple at home" was anything but "enviable." 

He couldn't wait any longer; it was time for a declaration of in- 
dependence, and let Foch and the others try to nullify it. 

That day, on returning to his headquarters, he issued a general or- 
der announcing the formation of the First American Army, effective 
August 10, with himself inevitably as its commander. 

1 3 . The Jaws of Saint-Mihiel 

On leaving Pershing's office after being ordered to take over the 
enormous task of straightening out the Services of Supply, General 
Harbord had ruefully remarked, "Here I had a first-class fighting divi- 
sion. Now see what my general has done to me." Few officers would 
admit to being willing to give up a combat division in exchange for an 
administrative post, even though the latter was the second most im- 
portant in the A.E.F. There would be little headline glory in supervis- 
ing the S.O.S., even though the combat efficiency of the whole Expedi- 
tionary Force depended upon its efficient administration. Harbord may 
well have risen to a corps or army command had he stayed with the 
troops, but in the end he had little to complain about. His perform- 
ance as supply chief later obtained for him one of the most prized 
executive jobs in American business. 

Four days after the Bombon conference, he and Pershing set out 
on an inspection of the S.O.S. facilities, indicating the latter's concern 
over the supply situation. Among the officers accompanying them were 
General McAndrew, the A.E.F. chief of staff; Colonel Avery D. An- 
drews, Pershing's classmate and now assistant chief of staff, G-l; and 
Major Edward Bowditch, an aide who had been secretary of the Moro 
Province when Pershing was its governor. 

What they saw on that quick-step tour was not particularly encour- 
aging, considering that in six weeks the clotted arteries of the S.O.S. 
would have to pump forward the supplies for an army of 600,000 en- 
gaged in battle. 

Perhaps the worst problem was the French railway net, burdened 
as it was with moving 700,000 tons of American supplies monthly in 


addition to the requirements of the French Army. The French, Har- 
bord complained, were "in the early Victorian days of railroad man- 
agement . . . cramped and provincial . . . with continual jealousy 
and bickering between local officials and the big central control in 
Paris." As a result, he said, "every side track in France seems to lodge 
empty cars which are more precious to us than jewel caskets." Harbord 
was also harshly critical of the "boneheadedness and inefficiency which 
allowed some thousands of cars to fall into German hands in the 
March and May advances from mere failure to run them back before 
the German advance." He decided to make the railroad operation's 
shake-up his first objective and commandeered a special train for him- 
self which allowed him to proceed immediately to wherever a bottle- 
neck occurred. 

At Tours, Pershing took time out for a sentimental pilgrimage to 
the pension where he had "spent two happy months" with his family 
in 1908. "The beautiful garden, the shade trees, the swing, the chil- 
dren's sandpile, all were the same, but the management had changed 
and I was a stranger." 

Pershing and Harbord gave particular attention to the docks on the 
Gironde River, at Bordeaux and Bassens, and the vast marshaling 
yards at Saint-Sulpice. Conditions at Bordeaux were so unsatisfactory 
that they decided to replace the commanding officer, Harbord noting 
that "there seemed to be more attention paid to what would now be 
called 'public relations' than to hustling freight off the ships and ex- 
pediting their turn-around." In the same area they inspected the stor- 
age depot at Saint-Sulpice, where the last of 107 warehouses were 
under construction, the tank farm at Gievres where 2,000,000 gallons 
of gasoline were stored, and the largest refrigerating plant in the world, 
which required 20,000 men to operate. At Saint-Nazaire they trotted 
hurriedly around the great port depot of Montoir, with its 2000 square 
acres of installations serviced by 200 miles of railroad track. Per- 
shing paused at Saint-Nazaire, much as he hated speechmaking, to 
address the hundreds of Negro stevedores who gathered around him. 
He had always been rather sentimentally inclined toward Negroes 
with more than a hint of condescension, perhaps, by today's standards, 
but his affection was nonetheless genuine and spoke of "my service 
with a colored regiment and how proud we were of its conduct in the 
Spanish- American War." As though conferring a boon, he announced 
that they might have the "honor" of serving at the front later ona 


suggestion which the stevedores received with something less than en- 

Pershing and his party motored up the Loire to the classification de- 
pot at Blois, one of the functions of which was to sort out officers who 
had somehow failed in their duty-a "human salvaging plant" as Har- 
bord called it, "the grave of buried ambitions, the temporary home 
of the homeless." Blois was the scrap pile of hundreds of personal 
tragedies, but undoubtedly the rehabilitation system established there 
was more humane than the sacrificial "Company QV to which 
blemished Civil War officers were consigned. "Officers of ail grades 
from brigadier down came here for a sizing-up, some to find duty in a 
different unit from that in which they failed, others to stay away per- 
manently from corfibatant troops, confessed failures," Harbord wrote. 
But it was still a shameful place, and Pershing did not mention it except 
in passing when he compiled his account of the trip with Harbord; in- 
stead, he wrote approvingly of a German officers' prison at Fort Pen- 
field, near Pontanezen, where "it was everywhere noticeable that 
whether in prison or at work the German soldier always retained his 
military bearing and his excellent discipline." 

On returning to Paris from the inspection tour, Pershing cabled the 
Secretary of War that on the whole the S.O.S. was in working order 
and would "be able to provide for the needs of our expanded pro- 
gram." And he repeated his view that "all must be under one head to 
insure success," just in case Washington was still wondering whether 
the supply chief of the A.E.F. should have "coordinate" status. 

The French and British, during most of August, were engaged in 
reducing the various salients thrust into their lines by the German 
offensives. The British pinched out the Amiens salient in successful 
attacks between August 8 and 15, and between Soissons and Arras, 
August 18 to 29, the French and British together forced the Germans 
back to prepared positions in the Battle of Picardy. Toward the end 
of August the enemy began evacuating the Lys salient. All along the 
line the Germans were falling back, shortening their front, preparing to 
offer the most desperate resistance to the heavier blows expected from 
the Allied armies that fall. A number of American units participated 
in those actions under French and British command. The Allies had 
not yet given up hope that Pershing could be dissuaded from carrying 
out an all-American operation designed to eliminate the Saint-Mihiel 
salient; the most determined attacks on his plan were still to come. 


Happily unaware that the Allies had not reconciled themselves to 
his program or that they were maneuvering behind the scenes to delay 
the formation of the First American Army, Pershing went ahead with 
his plans at his new headquarters at La Ferte-sous-Jouarre. Much of 
his time was spent going over reports on the performances of his vari- 
ous divisions, particularly the fifteen earmarked for participation in 
the Saint-Mihiel offensive, and the competence of their senior officers. 
He was interested not only in the evidence of their capacity to handle 
their present responsibilities but to "grow up to" larger ones. In the 
expanding A.E.F. he had to be searching constantly for men with the 
talent and outlook elastic enough to move up the ladder of command. 
Major Palmer recalled that he would ask one of his staff, "What is 
the matter with so and so?" The officer would reply, "He not only 
does not see the forest for the trees, but he is digging himself a hole 
under the roots of one tree." And Pershing would comment, "Why I 
considered him one of my broad-minded ones. Haven't you met any 
of my narrow-minded ones?" To one rather surprised officer he rec- 
ommended a reading of Tolstoy's War and Peace to "develop your 
imagination." Of another he complained, "He has not yet gone as far 
as Caesar's Commentaries in studying the history of war since he forgot 
the history he learned at West Point." 

General Liggett, as commander of I Corps, was living up to the 
great expectations held for him and proving, as he said, that fat 
"doesn't matter if it does not extend above the neck." General Bui- 
lard, commander of II Corps, had demonstrated the kind of drive 
and self-assurance that was essential in executing the kind of fast- 
breaking offensives with which Pershing hoped to break the German 
line. Now another man had come along and proved, in the space of a 
few months, that he also had the capacity for high command. He 
was Major General Charles P. Summerall, recently elevated to com- 
mand of the First Division, now known as "Pershing's Darlings." 
Many historians have designated him as the only original genius raised 
up by the A.E.F. Originally an artilleryman, his strong point was 
promoting teamwork between the artillery and the infantry, using his 
guns to cover and clear the way for the ground forces. "No attack of 
the World War before 1918," he said, "was supported by half enough 
artillery to protect the men." 

Summerall, who was descended from a long line of preachers, and 
himself intended for the pastorate, was a fifty-one-year-old West 


Pointer. He had won distinction during the Boxer Rebellion when 
Reilly's battery was trying to batter down the gate to the Forbidden 
City. Summerall dashed up to the gate under heavy fire from the Box- 
ers, chalked up a big cross as an aiming point, and returned to his 
guns as they blew the gate down. Later he served for many years in the 

In December of 1917 he succeeded General March in command of 
the 1 st Artillery Brigade and built a strong communications net, string- 
ing wires from the forward positions of the First Division through the 
switchboard at artillery headquarters direct to his batteries. On March 
19 his system met the test when the Germans threw in a storm-troop 
battalion behind a box barrage. Summerall's guns went into action 
immediately in the' Toul sector, killing all of the assaulting battalion's 
officers and half of the men before they had advanced halfway across 
No Man's Land. During the First Division's attack at Cantigny, Sum- 
merall reinforced his batteries of French 75s with a collection of old 
fortress howitzers of limited range but heavy caliber and kept plastering 
the German positions around the clock for four days, until a captured 
officer complained, "My God, your artillery must be crazy. All they do 
is shoot. My men couldn't get any rest or work on the trenches or lay 
their guns properly." 

Summerall kept pounding away at his credo, "Artillery exists only 
to protect and support the infantry," and insisted that the machine- 
gun deadlock on the western front could be broken by a more per- 
fect co-ordination of artillery and rifle fire. 

He was one of the few high-ranking A.E.F. officers for whom the 
troops demonstrated any considerable enthusiasm. General Bullard 
said his subordinates "both feared and loved him. ... He possessed 
the quality of giving the severest reprimand in the quietest words. . . . 
He never coddled, he sometimes even treated soldiers with a calm, 
uncompromising harshness, but the soldier that did something under 
Summerall was never forgotten." 

General Summerall was a fervent teetotaler, which alone distin- 
guished him from most of his brother officers. On an inspection tour 
in the Toul sector one night he asked a company commander his usual 
question, "Is there any drinking in your command?" "Some drinking, 
sir," the infantry captain replied, "but no drunkenness." Just then the 
company cook staggered out of his quarters and lurched toward Sum- 
merall with a glad cry of, "My old captain from the Philippines," and 


collapsed in the snow at the general's feet. Summerall, putting aside his 
convictions in favor of sentiment, immediately claimed him for his 
headquarters mess. 

Among the divisional reports that Pershing studied with particular 
interest in those late August days were those of the 32nd and 42nd, 
which had been engaged in heavy fighting. The 32nd was composed 
partly of National Guard troops from Wisconsin, mostly German- 
Americans, who were not expected to take kindly to the idea of fight- 
ing under French command. In the forests of the Vosges, however, 
they had distinguished themselves in some of the bitterest hand-to- 
hand fighting of the war. The 42nd (Rainbow) Division's toughest 
outfit was the 165th Infantry, as the old "Fighting 69th" had been 
renamed. The regiment had been recruited largely from the Irish- 
Americans of the Hell's Kitchen section of New York, and their senti- 
ments also were suspected of being less than lukewarm. On the Ourcq 
that summer they had shattered the counterattacks of four German 
divisions, including the crack Fourth Prussian Guards. The reports on 
the 32nd and 42nd divisions only confirmed Pershing's belief that 
Americans would fight in the national interest, regardless of who the 
enemy was or who their allies were. . . . 

On August 29, Pershing moved closer to the front and established 
his battle headquarters at Ligny-en-Barrois, which was twenty-five 
miles southwest of Saint-Mihiel. The French handed over command 
of the Saint-Mihiel sector with considerable ceremony. Dress trousers 
of red and sky-blue tunics, which had gone out of fashion at the front 
in 1914 when they proved attractive targets for enemy machine gun- 
ners, adorned the French general and his staff. His chief of staff made 
quite a ritual of turning over two large volumes, one the Offensive 
Plan and the other the Defensive Plan for the Saint-Mihiel salient, 
each numbering about 150 pages. Pershing sardonically pointed out 
later that he had brought along his own plans, which ran to a total of 
only fourteen pages, and which he said "showed the difference between 
planning for trench warfare, to which the French were inclined, and 
open warfare, which we expected to conduct." 

American troops were already moving into position for the offen- 
sive two weeks hence, the I and IV corps replacing the Second and 
Eighth French armies in the sectors from Void to Souilly and Void 
to the Moselle River. 


Pershing's plans were made; the First American Army, which would 
also include the II French (Colonial) Corps and the American V 
Corps, with three divisions in Army Reserve, would go over the top on 
September 12. 

That was the situation on the afternoon of August 30, everything 
moving like clockwork, everyone looking forward to a smashing suc- 
cess against the Germans, convinced that the Allies had finally yielded 
to the idea of an integrated American Army. 

That evening, however, Generalissimo Foch appeared at Ligny-en- 
Barrois, bearing with him a new plan of operations. Foch's proposal, 
as Pershing summed it up, was that "the objectives in the St. Mihiel 
operation should be restricted and the attack made on the southern 
face only, and that upon its completion two other operations be under- 
taken by combined Americans and French, a number of our divisions 
going under French command." [The italics were Pershing's.] 

The British, it later developed, were particularly active behind the 
scenes of this latest maneuver, foremost among them Sir Henry Wil- 
son, the chief of the Imperial General Staff, who had little sympathy 
for Pershing's yearning for independence. Haig was also in favor of 
the revision, but more on tactical than on political grounds. On a visit 
to British headquarters earlier that month Pershing should, perhaps, 
have been forewarned. King George, also in attendance, had spoken 
to Pershing of his desire to have as many Americans as possible serve 
under the British command, emphasizing that "their presence has an 
excellent effect in stimulating the morale" of the British units to which 
they were attached. 

Unmoved by the royal compliment, Pershing later that day gave 
Haig the news that he would have to withdraw three of the five Ameri- 
can divisions serving with the British to build up his own army for the 
Saint-Mihiel operation. Haig argued that he had "understood that the 
American divisions had been sent there to be trained and to serve on 
the British front and that now, just as they had become useful, it was 
proposed to take them away." 

When he saw that Pershing was adamant, Haig said, with every 
appearance of good grace, "Pershing, of course you shall have them. 
There can never be any difference between us." 

In London they were less inclined to be sporting, Lloyd George 
cabling Clernenceau that he wanted American divisions to form a re- 
serve group behind the British armies, and reminding him that "the 


greater part of the American troops were brought to France by British 
shipping and that because of the sacrifices made to furnish this ship- 
ping our people have the right to expect that more than five divisions of 
the twenty-eight now in France should be put in training behind our 

Even more vociferous, though not publicly so, was General Wilson, 
who was convinced that his country was bearing the heaviest burden 
of the war, that "the French are not fighting at all and the Americans 
don't know how." An adept at political and military intrigue, he had 
opposed the plan to assign the reduction of the Saint-Mihiel salient 
to the American Army and he was accustomed to getting his own way 
sooner or later. Few of his colleagues were willing to pay him any high 
personal or professional regard. Sir Andrew Macphail (Three Persons) 
wrote of him: "A creature with the characteristics of separate species 
is abhorrent; it has the worst features of both. The dog, the ape, the 
man, the politician, the soldier are as God made them. Sir Henry Wil- 
son was politician and soldier at the same time." 

On August 27, pushing harder for revision of the campaign plan, 
Field Marshal Haig wrote to Marshal Foch that the direction of the 
American offensive should be changed "in such a way as to make 
possible the launching of a concentric movement against Cambrai and, 
starting from the southwards, against Mezieres. The actual direction 
taken by my attacks will bring me to Cambrai, provided the pressure 
exerted against the rest of the enemy's front be constantly maintained." 
Haig, in other words, wanted the American attack to veer toward his 
own objective, making both offensives more difficult for the Ger- 
mans to counter. Pershing, on the other hand, had proposed to attack 
in a more easterly direction and bring more direct pressure to bear on 
the enemy's vitals. As General Harbord pointed out, Pershing's plan 
would have been "perhaps less expensive of life and equally effective 
in ending the war. ... It was the shortest line to the enemy's line of 
supply and communications. It might have looked a bit more like an 
American victory ending the war than the Franco-American effort 
west of the Meuse." 

Harbord, undoubtedly reflecting his chief's views, believed that be- 
tween August 24 and 30 Foch "must have had counsel from some 
source which disposed him to the frustration of the hopes of the Amer- 
icans and the disorganization of their First Army." There is little doubt 
that Wilson and Haig were that source. 


When Foch appeared at his Advanced Headquarters on August 30, 
Pershing, listening to this new scheme, must have thought back to the 
marshal's assurance of several weeks before that "I am going to be 
more American than you are" in pushing the organization of an 
American Army. 

The new proposition, Pershing wrote in his diary later that night, 
came "dropping out of a clear sky without the slightest warning." 

Foch, always hopeful of finding Pershing in a mood to say yes for 
once, asked his opinion of the new plan. 

"Well, Marshal," Pershing replied, "this is a very sudden change. We 
are going forward as already recommended to you and approved by 
you, and I cannot understand why you want these changes. Moreover, 
I think that to make an attack in the salient with limited objectives 
would cost little less than to carry out the original idea, which would 
put us in a much better position." 

Foch remarked that he had hoped to avoid dividing the American 
Army, now barely organized, but didn't see how it could be done. He 
also suggested that two French generals, Degoutte and Malcor, be 
assigned to presumably influential positions on Pershing's staff. "This 
was only a roundabout way of attempting to assign General Degoutte 
to command our forces," Pershing maintained, adding that many 
Americans who had served under Degoutte when he commanded the 
Sixth French Army considered that "because of his orders American 
troops had been unnecessarily sacrificed." 

He rejected the suggestions at once, then by way of conciliation told 
Foch that he would be willing to accept the limited objectives if the 
secondary attack from the western face of the salient could be retained 
in the plan of operations. He also made it plain that he would not 
consider any plan in which the American First Army would be broken 
up before it was given a chance to fight. 

The conversation then became quite heated. 

"Do you wish to take part in the battle?" Foch demanded. 

"Most assuredly, but as an American army and in no other way." 

Foch explained that his timetable would be upset if Pershing's plans 
were not changed in line with his suggestions. 

"If you will assign me a sector," Pershing said, "I will take it at 

"Where would it be?" 

"Wherever you say." 


The marshal pointed out that the Americans lacked artillery and 
other supporting elements to carry out a large-scale operation, to which 
Pershing retorted that the United States had concentrated on shipping 
infantry and machine-gun units on demand of the Allies, who had 
promised to supply the auxiliary forces. 

Foch clung so stubbornly to his new proposals that Pershing finally 
told him: 

"Marshal Foch, you have no authority as Allied Commander-in- 
Chief to call upon me to yield up my command of the American army 
and have it scattered among the Allied forces where it will not be an 
American army at all." 

"I must insist upon the arrangement," Foch reiterated. 

"Marshal Foch, you may insist all you please, but I decline abso- 
lutely to consider your plan. While our army will fight wherever you 
may decide, it will not fight except as an independent American army." 

Thereupon Foch gathered up his maps and papers and turned to- 
ward the door. He was ten years Pershing's senior, and his face was 
pale, lined, and weary from the tension of the interview. Pershing 
noted, not without satisfaction, that Foch looked "utterly exhausted" 
from the ordeal. He paused at the threshold and handed Pershing a 
memorandum listing his proposals and expressed the hope that the 
American, after considering them in writing, would change his mind. 

After the weary generalissimo departed, Pershing decided that Foch 
had "allowed himself to be persuaded that after the reduction of the 
St. Mihiel salient [the American Army] should be split up. ... With 
the added support of American divisions, making the Second [French] 
Army largely American, Foch's advisers no doubt thought that the 
French themselves would then be able to push forward and cut Ger- 
many's vital line of communications." 

He looked over the memorandum Foch had left, which included 
these proposals: 

"a) An attack between the Meuse and the Argonne executed by 
the French Second Army reinforced by a few American divisions (4 or 
6), to be prepared at once and launched as soon as possible after that 
in the Woevre [that is, the Saint-Mihiel salient]. 

"b) A French- American attack extending from the Argonne to the 
Souain road, to be prepared also without any delay so that it may be 
launched a few days after the preceding one. This attack will be exe- 
cuted by: On the right, an American army acting on each side of the 


Aisne on the left the French Fourth Army extending its action to the 
Souain road." 

It seemed to Pershing, pacing his office that night, that Foch "has 
some brilliant ideas but many of them are, unfortunately, not possible 
of execution." Aside from the question of breaking up his army and 
submitting to further "coordination" by the French, it would have been 
all but impossible to reduce the Saint-Mihiel salient, then proceed with 
two other operations immediately afterward "with forces which don't 

Undoubtedly Foch's proposals of August 30 bore all the earmarks 
of hasty improvisation; they had been concocted in a last-minute effort 
to forestall any independent operations by the American Army, pre- 
sumably with postwar political objectives in view. There hadn't been 
time to draw up a well-considered plan of operations. The sketchy 
memorandum submitted by Foch was the result. 

Next day Generals Pershing and McAndrew and their operations 
officer, General Conner, drew up a strongly worded reply which read 
in part: "I can no longer agree to any plan which involves a disper- 
sion of our units. . . . Briefly, American officers and soldiers alike 
are, after one experience, no longer willing to be incorporated in other 
armies, even though such incorporation be by larger units. The older 
American divisions have encountered so much difficulty in their serv- 
ice with the French and British that it is advisable to consider the re- 
turn of such divisions to French or British control. The same is true 
of our corps staffs." Pershing added that he was willing to make a 
concession in changing the direction of the American attacks toward 
Mezieres "even though it complicates my supply system and the care 
of sick and wounded," but "the American army must be employed 
as a whole, either east of the Argonne or west of the Argonne. . . ." 

On September 2, Foch and Pershing met again, this time with Gen- 
eral Petain present, at Foch's headquarters at Bombon. Again there 
was sparring between Foch and Pershing, with Petain as referee, but 
an agreement was finally reached. Pershing wrote that Foch, "though 
assuming a very bluff air," was more conciliatory than on the evening 
of August 30. But the Supreme Commander still drove a hard bar- 
gain. The Americans were to undertake the Saint-Mihiel offensive, 
then in the brief space of two weeks transfer their forces for a much 
larger operation on the Meuse-Argonne front. The movement would 
entail lifting 600,000 troops and 3000 guns, plus all the other equip- 


ment and supplies, from the Saint-Mihiel battlefield and depositing 
them on the new front sixty miles away, over three roads that could 
be used only during the night hours. 

The French and British had long been carping about the defi- 
ciencies of American staff work, yet now were handing them an enor- 
mously complicated problem in logistics which would have taxed the 
ingenuity of the most experienced staff in military history. Mounting 
an offensive of that scope usually took months of preparation. Not 
even the logistically brilliant Germans tried to work that fast. Even so, 
Pershing said, "it was a relief to have a decision" by which he meant a 
decision acceptable to himself. 

The objective of the American offensive was a triangle of ground 
between the Moselle and the Meuse rivers, about eighteen miles deep 
and thirty miles across the base. Since the earliest months of the war, 
it had been a wedge driven into the Allied front, cutting the Paris- 
Nancy and the Toul-Verdun railroad lines and posing a constant threat 
to the rear of the defenses of Verdun. For years Allied strategists 
had been staring at that wedge called the Saint-Mihiel salient and shak- 
ing their heads; the Germans had made full use of their tenure and 
created a powerful defensive position. 

On the western face of the salient were the heights of the Meuse, 
extending along the eastern bank of the river. Beyond the heights was 
the broad plain of the Woevre, covered with lakes, marshes, and woods 
which had been heavily fortified by the Germans. Running through 
the salient from its base, flowing northeast and emptying into the Mo- 
selle, was a small stream called the Rupt de Mad. During the rainy sea- 
son, generally beginning in mid-September, the Woevre plain was 
flooded and often its roads were impassable. The salient, Pershing said, 
was "practically a great field fortress." 

It had been German real estate since September of 1914, when the 
enemy tried to cut off Verdun, and it had been developed with their 
accustomed skill and thoroughness. With excellent observation from 
the heights of the Meuse and the hill of Montsec near the apex of the 
triangle, the Germans commanded the western face of the salient with 
their massed artillery. Their main defenses included an outpost system, 
the Wilhelm position paralleling the front, the Schroerer position 
about five miles to the rear, and finally the Michel Stellung, part of the 


Hindenburg Line, behind which the enemy hoped to hold out against 
the general offensive. 

To the rear of the salient, certifying its strategic importance, was 
the fortress city of Metz with its converging rail lines and the nearby 
Briey iron mines which were the sole support of the German war in- 
dustries. Metz was the most sensitive spot on the German war maps. 
Any movement in its direction was regarded as critical. From the mo- 
ment of its seizure the Germans had decided to settle hi the salient 
permanently. A doughboy in the 42nd Division observed that in the 
salient "the graves of German soldiers are not marked by rude little 
wooden crosses but substantial and sometimes elaborate monuments 
in stone." 

The German cornmander on that section of the front was General 
Max von Gallwitz, whose army group included Army Detachment C, 
charged with the defense of the salient, and the Nineteenth Army, 
covering the defenses of Metz. From then until the end of the war he 
was to be Pershing's chief opponent. He was sixty-four years old, the 
son of a Breslau tax collector promoted from the ranks during the 
Franco-Prussian War. The fact that he had risen to high command in 
an Army dominated by Prussian aristocrats testified to his competence. 
He was a steady and iron-nerved, if not brilliant or inspired, com- 
mandersomething like Pershing in temperament. As commander of 
the Guard Reserve Corps, he captured the fortress of Namur August 
1, 1914. On the eastern front he had commanded the Twelfth Army, 
then had returned to the west and command of the Second and Fifth 
armies until September 1918, when he was promoted to army group 
commander. In the salient itself, General Max von Fuchs directed the 
operations of Army Detachment C. 

To crush the enemy forces in this salient, Pershing and his staff 
worked out a plan for double envelopment, the jaws of which would 
close on the base of the triangle and trap as many as possible of the 
defenders. With forces greatly outnumbering those of his opponent, 
Pershing wanted an overwhelming victory because, as he wrote, "any- 
thing short of complete success would undoubtedly be seized upon to 
our disadvantage by those of the Allies who opposed the policy of 
forming an American army." To this end he mustered fifteen divisions 
with four in reserve. Opposed to them would be only nine enemy 
divisions in the front line and one in reserve and the German divisions 
then were much smaller than any of the Allied, especially the Ameri- 


can. The Germans, however, had the advantage of their experience 
and of fighting a defensive battle on ground they had been fortifying 
for four years. 

The American order of battle was as follows: I Corps under Liggett 
(the 82nd, 90th, 5th, and 2nd, with the 78th in reserve) and IV Corps 
under Dickman (the 89th, 42nd, and First, with the 3rd in reserve) on 
the southern face of the salient. In the center, assigned to a holding 
operation, the II French Colonial Corps (the 39th, 26th, and 2nd Cav- 
alry dismounted, all French). On the western face of the salient, V 
Corps under Cameron (the 26th, the 15th French Colonial, and the 
4th). In Army Reserve were the 35th, 33rd, 91st, and 80th. 

Moving his divisions into line and bringing up their supplies in the 
brief time allotted to preparing for the operation was a tremendous 
job in itself. The army engineers had to build forty-five miles of stand- 
ard-gauge and 250 miles of narrow-gauge railroads, a 200-foot 
bridge at Griscourt, and fifteen miles of road. Every day 1,200,000 
gallons of water had to be provided. The Medical Corps brought up 
15,000 beds and arranged for sixty-five hospital trains for those who 
would be wounded. Nineteen railheads had to be established to fur- 
nish the daily requirements in food, clothing, and equipment. The 
Signal Corps set up a central switchboard at Pershing's headquarters 
at Ligny-en-Barrois with thirty-eight circuits for corps and auxiliary 
headquarters and separate nets for the units in the field. 

Pershing now commanded the largest and most powerful army ever 
raised under the American flag, consisting of 550,000 Americans plus 
four combat divisions, aviators, tankers, and gunners supplied by 
the French for the occasion. Of the almost 3000 guns brought up in 
their support, none were of American manufacture. An air fleet of 
1481 planes under command of Billy Mitchell, including 600 French 
aircraft and the British Independent Bombing Squadron led by Gen- 
eral Sir Hugh (Boom) Trenchard, was also to be thrown into the fight. 
It was the largest air force ever assembled up to that time. None of the 
planes had been manufactured in the United States. 

Despite the overwhelming superiority of the army compared to its 
opponent, Pershing was still not complacent about his prospects. Un- 
der his orders an elaborate plan to deceive the Germans on the site 
of his offensive was concocted, not only to draw off enemy troops but 
to achieve the tactical surprise he believed necessary to its success. 
Major Omar Bundy, commanding the VIII Corps, was ordered to 


establish himself and his staff at the Grand Hotel du Tonneau d'Or in 
Belfort, near the Swiss border, which was a rendezvous and clear- 
inghouse for secret agents. Bundy and his staff rather ostentatiously 
began drawing up plans for an invasion of Alsace through the Belfort 

Almost immediately the hotel began to fill up with overly noncha- 
lant tourists, commercial travelers, Swiss businessmen, roaming artists, 
and other impostors who bribed the waiters for scraps of intelligence 
overheard in the dining room and bought the contents of wastebaskets 
from the chambermaids. Fragments of operational plans were among 
the scraps of paper bought by German agents, encouraging the enemy 
intelligence to decide that an attack on Miilhausen was being prepared 
for mid-September* The German High Command fell for the decep- 
tion and moved three divisions to the Alsatian sector from the front 
covering Metz. 

Now everything was ready; the First American Army would go into 
action on the morning of September 12. 

On the evening of September 11-12, a heavy rain began pouring 
down, flooding the flat fields and marshes of the Woevre, but fortu- 
nately it soon tapered off to a persistent drizzle. During that night the 
infantry moved up to its jump-off positions. The main attack on the 
southern face of the salient was to begin at 5 A.M., the secondary at- 
tack to the west at 8 A.M. 

Four hours before zero the massed Allied artillery opened up, 
pounding away at the dense thickets of German barbed wire, the en- 
emy machine-gun nests, and the forward positions of its infantry. The 
barrage was one of the most terrific of the war. On the First Division's 
front, General Summer all, the perfectionist in artillery, was more selec- 
tive in his fire patterns than the steamroller barrage preceding the other 
divisions in the line. He had ordered "one heavy or two light guns" 
to fire on each enemy machine-gun nest until his infantry could bring 
it under direct assault. His guns were employed so skillfully, at each 
stage of the advance, that the First Division was enabled to cover the 
most ground in the least time. 

Long before dawn, Pershing and several of his staff officers motored 
to old Fort Gironville on a height commanding the battle line from the 
south and watched the bombardment. Fog and drizzle covered the 
wooded plain before them, and they could only hope that the autumnal 
rains would not begin in earnest until the battle was over. 


The sky was flaming with a thousand explosions as Pershing and his 
officers watched the spectacle over the salient. Shells exploded with 
sharp bursts of flame and steel fragments in the dark woods held by 
the enemy. Star shells soared into the misty sky, lighting up the terrain 
for the alarmed defenders, and colored signal lights were rocketed 
heavenward all along the twenty-five-mile front. Villages caught in the 
bombardment behind the German lines went up like torches. Enemy 
ammunition dumps touched of! by direct hits rocked the earth with 
their multiple explosions. A dozen years later Pershing could recall 
the "exultation in our minds that here, at last, after seventeen months 
of effort, an American army was fighting under its own flag." 

Meanwhile, unseen by their commander, hundreds of thousands of 
infantry waited to go over the top, men from every state in the Union 
huddled in their trenches, waiting for their sergeants to blow the whis- 
tle or fire the flare gun as the hands of their watches raced toward 
5 A.M. Only a small proportion of them had actually been under fire, 
and, as a British observer commented, they were full of "boldness and 
dash" and their worst faults "arose from over-keenness, such as care- 
lessness about liaison, overstepping of boundaries, overrunning the 

They waited in their muddy trenches and rifle pits, under their 
saucerlike helmets, in the cramped and uncomfortable work clothes 
of the doughboy, with tight-fitting tunic, high choking collar, and 
troublesome puttees, only the trench-coated officers adequately pro- 
tected against the rain. They were loaded down like pack mules, since 
Pershing and his officers regarded government property as sacred and 
would not let it be abandoned under any circumstances. Heavy packs, 
cumbersome gas masks, intrenching tools, bayoneted rifles or their 
allotted section of a machine gun or mortar burdened each man. Si- 
lently they waited in the mist and fog, listened to the guns, and won- 
dered what was waiting for them in the wet woods and deep ravines 

A few minutes before five o'clock the lighter guns began firing just 
over their heads; whistles blew and flares exploded; the sergeants yelled 
their blasphemous slogans; and the doughboys clambered out of their 
trenches, following the rolling curtain of their barrages. Tanks rumbled 
up to join the advance, and the battle was on. 

Three hours later, on the western face of the salient, the three 


divisions of the V Corps jumped off as scheduled and stormed through 
the woods on the heights of the Meuse. 

Foul as the weather was, Billy Mitchell's two attack brigades of 
400 planes each took off to bomb and strafe the German communica- 
tions at the base of the salient. For the next three days the Allied fliers 
French, British, and American kept up a constant air assault on the 
German rear, shooting up every troop movement and dropping ex- 
plosives on all visible installations. Mitchell "used his 1,481 airplanes 
as cavalry itself had once been used, as an active arm in itself, "as 
Quentin Reynolds (They Fought for the Sky) has written. A few weeks 
later Mitchell was promoted to brigadier and given command of all 
the A.E.F.'s air forces at the front. 

By 9 A.M., whe-n Pershing returned to his headquarters at Ligny- 
en-Barrois from Fort Gironville, it was apparent that the attacks were 
succeeding at all points. On his way back to headquarters he passed 
groups of German prisoners being marched to waiting stockades. 
Studying the first action reports from his unit commanders, he saw 
that the initial German resistance was crumbling and his forces were 
advancing, for the most part, ahead of their timetables. The southern 
force was to pivot on the Moselle and make a right wheel toward 
Vigneulles, its seven divisions swinging in a twelve-mile radius. One 
division of the western force, the 26th, was to drive ahead to meet 
the First Division of the IV Corps at Vigneulles and close the trap 
on the Germans in the salient. When those pincers closed, the battle 
would be won. All that day Pershing sat at the telephone, ordering 
his corps and division commanders to drive on, exceed their first day's 
objectives and get the fighting done with. Late in the afternoon aerial 
observation confirmed what Pershing already suspected the German 
forces compressed in the narrowing space between his southern and 
western wings were crowding the roads through the forest trying to get 
away with their artillery and supply trains. The French Colonials took 
the village of Saint-Mihiel and were beginning to follow up the re- 
treating enemy. 

The Germans, it was apparent from their action and situation re- 
ports and war diaries, as translated from the Potsdam archives after 
the war by United States Army historians, were hard-pressed to keep 
their retreat from turning into a rout. They had been expecting an at- 
tack in the salient since September 1, when Hindenburg's headquar- 
ters forwarded intelligence summaries indicating that a converging 


offensive against Metz could be expected, and on September 7 Von 
Gallwitz and Von Fuchs worked out a plan to hit first and get the jump 
on the Americans. They dropped the plan hurriedly when they learned 
that the Americans were closing in on both sides of the salient. The 
enemy commanders were surprised not so much by the attack but the 
force and violence with which it was launched. The army group's war 
diary for September 12 expressed alarm at the "rapid launching of the 
enemy attack against the west and south front of the Army Detach- 
ment." Von Gallwitz had already asked permission to withdraw his 
forces to the Michel position and had started moving back some of his 
units and heavier equipment. "The enemy's advance," his headquar- 
ters' war diary added, "has to be stopped under all circumstances so 
as to protect the left pivot of the Michel movement" [back to the main 
positions of the Hindenburg Line]. For six hours the Germans fought 
to maintain their front line, but at noon orders went out from Army 
Detachment C Headquarters to begin a graduated withdrawal. 

Fragments of radioed and telephoned messages from German for- 
ward units to their various headquarters provide a graphic picture 
of the fury with which the Americans attacked, scattering everything 
before them, then heading for the next line of resistance. "Despite 
repeated requests our infantry does not indicate its positions. . . .Bat- 
talion staff of the 15th Pioneers has just arrived at the Brigade com- 
mand post. Companies scattered, only one in hand. . . . Left flank 
in bad shape Grusdorf cannot hold out any longer batteries have no 
ammunition at the present time. . . . Line of riflemen seen advancing 
on the other side of the Grisieres farm. . . . Retrograde movements 
at the Grisieres farm. . . . Sixth Regiment thrown back entire 47th 
in retreat 1st Battery of the 56th destroyed. . . . Enemy tanks at 
Rambucort 70 to 80 tanks observed to the southeast preparing for 
heavy attack. . . ." 

Those messages, gasped out over the German radio and telephone 
nets, told the whole course of the battle. The Germans were accustomed 
to the methodical attacks of the French and British and could move 
methodically, sensibly, to forestall them. These Americans, however, 
came on like wild Indians, swarming over everything, rarely pausing 
to regroup, ignoring all the sane and logical patterns of warfare. 

And later that night the situation reports of the mauled and dis- 
organized divisions were even more alarming. The log at army group 
headquarters noted that the 192nd Infantry Division had reported 


that "it will not be able to offer stubborn resistance and that the forces 
are no longer sufficient for any kind of organization in depth." Un- 
fortunately for the enemy, the troops caught in the American nut- 
cracker were not top drawer, mostly war-weary and middle-aged 
Saxonians, Bavarians, Wiirttembergers, and Austrians. 

By then, at Ligny-en-Barrois, Pershing had flashed orders to all his 
commanders to disregard the original plan to advance by stages, keep 
on attacking, and close the gap at Vigneulles before the bulk of the 
German forces could escape. With the enemy in full retreat, the old 
cavalrymen at headquarters thought they saw a chance to prove that 
the mounted arm was not yet completely useless, as the footsloggers, 
the airmen, and the tank enthusiasts maintained. Pursuit was supposed 
to be the cavalry's job and someone at G.H.Q. it may have been 
Pershing remembered that three troops of the 2nd Cavalry were right 
behind the advancing infantry. Here was one last chance to send the 
horse cavalry in, before the tank took over its historic role in warfare. 

Orders went out for Troops D, F, and H, 300 troopers altogether, 
to reconnoiter the German line of retreat and try to cut the railroad 
at Vigneulles, where the First and 26th divisions were supposed to join 
hands. If the cavalry got there first, it might prove a point in Pershing's 
wrangle with Chief of Staff March over shipping two cavalry divisions 
from the States. The lesson of Carrizal, where four Mexican machine 
guns had chopped up two troops of the 10th Cavalry, seemed to be 

That brief cavalry action on the road to Vigneulles is seldom men- 
tioned in histories of the war, yet it was the final footnote to the 
record of the American cavalry, which had played a decisive role in 
three previous wars and the conquest of the Indians. 

What happened in that last charge, which must have further con- 
vinced the Germans they were dealing with lunatics, sounds like a 
page from a military satire. According to Thomas M. Johnson, the 
New York Sun correspondent, the three troops of the 2nd Cavalry 
were in poor shape for any kind of endeavor, let alone attacking 
the battle-hardened professionals of the German Army. They were 
mounted on the sorriest horseflesh, culled only three weeks before out 
of the veterinary hospitals. Many of the troopers were cavalrymen in 
name only, with no more than ten days' training on horseback. All 
were armed only with pistols. They lacked everything but courage. 

Troops D, F, and H trotted down the road in obedience to orders 


until their scouts spotted the rear guard of a column of the Michel 
Group heading back to a new position. Confident as their forerunners 
under the guidons of Stuart or Sheridan, they deployed, drew their 
pistols, and charged. A few seconds after recovering from their sur- 
prise at this quixotic gesture, the Germans unlimbered their machine 
guns and cut loose. 

At the first rattle of gunfire the 2nd Cavalry's mounts reared, un- 
seated many of their riders, and galloped off, but the dismounted 
troopers stayed to fight. When the skirmish was over and they strag- 
gled back to Nonsard, five miles behind the front, they found they 
had won themselves a small victory. One trooper had been killed and 
another captured, but ten bewildered Germans were brought back as 
prisoners of war. In modern war it appeared that the horse was simply 
unwilling to co-operate. The cavalry raid, as such, had failed to achieve 
its purpose. It must have been a dismal hour at Ligny when the old 
cavalrymen learned what had happened on the road to Vigneulles. 
However, the frustrated "raid" served a purpose, in that it discouraged 
Pershing from demanding further shipments of cavalry. 

All during that night of September 12-13 the Americans kept press- 
ing to close the trap on the Germans. Since the auxiliary services had 
a hard time keeping up with the advance, German prisoners were 
employed to carry the wounded of both sides back to the dressing 
stations and incidentally to absorb a lesson in democracy. A soldier 
in the Rainbow Division wrote that white-gloved German officers were 
forced into an acquaintance with manual labor for the first time in their 
lives. "It seemed to do these enemy enlisted men good to see their 
officers thus reduced to their own plane." The prisoners, in fact, had 
cheered up considerably after finding that "they weren't going to be 
scalped as they had been led to believe these aboriginal Americans 
were wont to do." 

Next morning Pershing arose after a few hours' sleep and at daylight 
heard the news he had been waiting for. The First and 26th divisions' 
leading elements had just met in the ruins of Vigneulles. Saint-Mihiel 
salient was in the bag. The whole front then moved forward to the 
line Noroy-Hattonville-Fresnes, which included all the objectives origi- 
nally staked out. Several counterattacks were repulsed, and the line 
again was advanced, to Haudiomont-Doncourt-Vandieres, where it 
was stabilized. Almost 16,000 prisoners and 450 guns had been taken, 


and the Germans were forced back into their last ditch, the Hindenburg 

It had been an easy victory, helped along by the fact that the Ger- 
mans had already started to withdraw from their forward positions. 
Liggett's I Corps, in fact, had reached its second-day objective only 
seven hours after the offensive began. One of his brigadiers strolled 
out on a personal reconnaissance, unescorted, and not a shot was 
fired at him; not an enemy soldier was to be seen. He sent a cocky 
message back to corps headquarters, "Let me go ahead, and I'll be in 
Metz, and you'll be a field marshal." Liggett, always shrewd and cool- 
tempered, reasoned that Metz could have been taken in another bound 
forward "only on the supposition that our army was a well-oiled, fully 
coordinated machine, which it was not as yet." 

Other field commanders, watching the Germans frantically throwing 
up field works along the incomplete Michel Stellung, were convinced 
that with reinforcements the First Army could have pushed on and 
broken the Hindenburg Line, taking the Briey iron fields and threat- 
ening the German line of retreat by slashing the enemy's communica- 
tions in Lorraine. "We could have gone on and taken Metz," mourned 
General Summerall. General Dickman expressed it even more strongly: 
"The failure to push north from St. Mihiel will always be regarded by 
me as a strategical blunder for which Marshal Foch and his staff are 
responsible. It is a glaring example of the fallacy of the policy of 
limited objectives." 

The victory was secured on Pershing's fifty-eighth birthday, Septem- 
ber 13, with President Wilson cabling his "warmest congratulations on 
the brilliant achievements of the army under your command." Marshal 
Foch, who had the generosity of a great man in such situations, tele- 
graphed Pershing that the American First Army "has won a magnifi- 
cent victory by a maneuver as skilfully prepared as it was valiantly 
executed." Even more flattering, perhaps, was the fact that Petain sent 
a large number of observers to the battlefield of Saint-Mihiel a few days 
later to learn how the Americans had cut through the fields of barbed 
wire so quickly (by smothering the enemy artillery and allowing men 
with wire cutters to work undisturbed). One French officer seriously 
expressed the opinion that Americans could better cope with the wire 
entanglements than his countrymen because they had longer legs and 
bigger feet. 

Yet the Battle of Saint-Mihiel was not a total success, principally 


because the Germans had managed to withdraw so many of their 
troops. General Bullard, who did not participate, believed that it "was 
given an importance which posterity will not concede. . . . Germany 
had begun to withdraw. She had there chiefly weaker divisions, young 
men and old, and Austro-Hungarians." In the larger picture of the 
western front, it was rated a "local success." 

Its real significance rested on the fact that the American Army had 
fought and won its first battle as an independent force and, despite 
the use of Pershing's more aggressive tactics, at a cost of only 7000 
casualties, the same number the First Division alone suffered at Sois- 
sons. Undoubtedly it could have pushed on and attained a major 
victory, but was stopped in its tracks by the conflicting demands of 
Allied strategy, one of the inevitable hazards of fighting a coalition 

Ahead, in the tangled forests and fortified heights of the Meuse- 
Argonne, lay the real test of American arms. 

14. The Longest, Toughest Battle 

In the ten days between September 16 and 26, an enormous feat of 
logistics had to be performed. To change the direction of the American 
attack from Metz to Mezieres, switching the center of gravity from 
the Saint-Mihiel sector to north of Verdun and the western edge of the 
Argonne forest, it was necessary to move out 220,000 French troops 
then holding that section of the line and replace them with 600,000 
Americans. This had to be done secretly, if possible, which neces- 
sitated night movements on foot, by rail, and by truck. The facilities 
for accomplishing this miracle of transportation were scant. There were 
only three standard-gauge railroad lines behind the new battle front 
and three roads leading toward it through Varennes, Avocourt, and 
Esne, each assigned to a corps. Nineteen railheads and eighty supply 
depots had to be established. Forty thousand tons of artillery ammuni- 
tion alone had to be stockpiled behind the lines before the zero hour. 
And all this had to be worked out by Americans whose staff work 
had been under constant criticism. 

The burden of planning and executing this quick and secret move- 
ment of the First American Army fell upon a youngish lieutenant 
colonel who until then had been working in the sacerdotal obscurity 
of the General Staff. He was George C. Marshall, Jr., only thirty-eight 
years old and not even a West Pointer. A graduate of the Virginia 
Military Institute, he had been commissioned a second lieutenant and 
sent to the Philippines early in 1902, served with the infantry on Min- 
doro, and in the years leading up to the European war had acquired 
a promising reputation as a staff officer. He went overseas with the 
first convoy and was assigned to the First Division as operations officer. 


His first encounter with General Pershing, when the latter was in- 
specting a two-battalion maneuver in October 1917, was not particu- 
larly auspicious. Pershing's criticism of the way the troops were 
handled was harsh. 

Marshall rather boldly pointed out that the field problem had been 
set up only the day before, coincidental with the announcement of the 
general's coming, and that the troops "should have had two weeks 
preparation for a complicated maneuver like this." Pershing glared. 
Contradictions by a junior staff officer are seldom welcomed by a 
four-star general. Finally he said, "Yes, you're quite right," and stalked 

Marshall next came to Pershing's attention as the planner of the 
Cantigny operation. Pershing, looking over his plans, not only ap- 
proved of them but marked down their author as a highly promising 
man. With the organization of the First Army, Marshall was moved up 
to operations officer on that staff under General Liggett and his chief 
of staff, General Hugh A. Drum. He was a quiet, sandy-haired man, 
imperturbable under the terrific pressure of those September days 
when the First Army was changing front. 

On September 21, Pershing moved his headquarters from Ligny-en- 
Barrois to Souilly, on the road from Bar-le-Duc to Verdun, down 
which millions of Frenchmen had marched in 1916 and 1917, hun- 
dreds of thousands of them never to make the return trip. Head- 
quarters was in the corner room of the shabby little town hall where 
Petain had proclaimed, "They shall not pass," and where Nivelle had 
planned the recapture of Fort Douaumont. Down the hall, in a small 
front room cluttered with maps, General Drum and Colonel Marshall 
grappled with the problem of bringing their forces into the line before 
September 21. 

Marshall, who was now referred to as "the wizard," stationed offi- 
cers at check points along the roads to report on the hour-by-hour 
movement of troops and supplies, keep breakdowns from tangling 
traffic, and make certain each division kept to its march tables. His 
calculations were based on this formula: each truck could carry twenty- 
four men, it took a thousand trucks to move one division, which oc- 
cupied about four miles of road (not counting the baggage trains), 
and there were fifteen divisions to be moved. 

The complications arising from this movement were neither fore- 
seeable nor preventable, and trucks broke down, horses foundered in 


exhaustion, and columns could become snarled because tractor-drawn 
artillery could travel at only eight kilometers an hour while another lot 
could make fifteen in the same time. By telephone and dispatch rider, 
and often in person when a bad traffic jam developed, Marshall super- 
vised the movement and kept it flowing. Marshall was able to report 
that "despite the haste with which the movements had to be carried 
out, the inexperience of most of the commanders in movements of 
such density, the condition of the animals and the limitations as to 
roads, the entire movement was carried out without a single element 
failing to reach its place on the date scheduled, which was, I under- 
stand, one day earlier than Marshal Foch considered possible." 

General Pershing considered it a "stupendous task and a delicate 
one" to engineer* that transfer without arousing the suspicions of the 
Germans, indicating "the smoothness and precision with which it was 
calculated and accomplished." He gave all the credit to the "able di- 
rection" of Colonel Marshall and quoted with approval the comment 
of Colonel Repington, the London Post's military writer, that "it was 
a fine piece of Staff work and no other Staff could have done it better." 
It was, in fact, one of the greatest achievements of the war. From then 
on, almost to the day of his death, Pershing was the prime mover, 
patron, and protector of the modest and quiet-mannered Marshall's 

While his troops were moving into position, Pershing was speeding 
around the circuit of the various Allied headquarters in his sedan with 
the four-starred pennant. Co-ordination with the French, in particular, 
had to be worked out since their Fourth Army was to attack on the 
Americans' left flank. He formally assumed command of the Meuse- 
Argonne sector on September 22. That day, only four days before the 
offensive was to begin, he had to straighten out a misunderstanding 
with Petain. He wrote in his diary that Petain somehow had under- 
stood him to say that there would be no preliminary bombardment 
on the American front. "Certainly I did not say to General Petain that 
there would be no artillery preparation by the Americans. . . . This is 
a matter which I will decide myself when the time comes to decide." 
The language barrier, even between two men who knew each other 
as well as Petain and Pershing did by then, was formidable. Every- 
thing had to be interpreted or translated, then checked back on to 
make certain that a precise understanding had been reached, par- 
ticularly when French and American units were fighting side by side; 


and in addition to different languages there was a different way of 
thinking and of acting on thought; the matter of liaison was always 
delicate, taxing, and vexatious. 

A clear understanding, however, had been reached on how each ally 
was to participate in the general offensive, how the converging armies 
were to make the grab for victory immediately rather than wait until 
the summer of 1919, which as late as July 24 Foch had envisioned as 
the climax of the war. The American First Army and the French Fourth 
were to drive forward on September 26, the British First and Third 
were to attack in the direction of Cambrai the next day, the Flanders 
group of armies (British Second and the Belgians) were to take the 
offensive September 28 between the Lys River and the sea, and on 
September 29 the British Fourth and the French First were to join 
in the movement on Cambrai. 

Confronting this array of armies from the Meuse to the Channel, 
217 divisions in all, were 193 German and four Austrian divisions. 
The enemy's morale was sinking, not only because of the series of de- 
feats which had been inflicted since midsummer but the privations of 
the soldiers' families on the home front and the increasing talk of a 
soldiers' and workers' revolution. Ludendorff's nerves were cracking 
and Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, commanding the German 
army group of the north, was writing that peace must be arranged by 
winter, no matter how hard the Allied terms. But the German armies 
were still capable of bitter resistance, knowing that the harder they 
fought the more favorable the peace terms that Germany could secure. 
They had the shelter of the belt of field fortifications called the Hin- 
denburg Line, and their High Command hoped that by holding the 
prewar, permanently fortified line between Metz and Switzerland they 
could conduct a graduated retreat to the Rhine, taking an immense 
toll of the attacking Allies while their diplomats negotiated from a 
position of comparative strength. The German defense was organized 
in depth, with six separate zones: the outpost line, the forward battle 
zone held mostly by machine guns and single field guns, the main 
battle zone, the greater battle zone which was the main line of re- 
sistance, the rearward position, and the rearward battle zone. In be- 
tween these zones were placed large numbers of machine guns. 

Nowhere were the Germans stronger and more determined to make 
a fight of it than in the Argonne, which for four years had been con- 
sidered impregnable by the Allies. 


The Argonne was designed to be the sinkhole and deathtrap of any 
army rash enough to attempt a penetration. 

Everything favored the defense. The two rivers trisecting the front 
were the Meuse, which was unfordable, and the Aire, which could be 
forded only in places. The Argonne, lying between the Aisne to the 
west and the Aire to the east, greatly resembled the Wilderness of 
Virginia, where the Union and Confederate armies all but destroyed 
each other in 1864, just as the Battle of the Argonne greatly resembled 
the epic struggle of Grant and Lee; there were the same density of 
forest and scrubby undergrowth, the same lack of roads and settle- 
ments, the same dark and forbidding air of desolation. Nothing on 
earth can be gloomier than the heart of a forest where the sun rarely 
penetrates to the carpeting of rotten leaves, the scummy ponds, and the 
lost little streams. As a military obstacle the Argonne and the terrain 
eastward to the Meuse, with their steep hills and deep ravines, was 
more formidable than the Wilderness, where the ground was fairly 
level and roads could be built. From the heights of the Aire on the left 
and the Meuse on the right the Americans could expect a terrific cross 
fire from the German artillery along the twenty-five-mile front. They 
would also have to force their way over three sizable barriers the 
heights of Montfaucon, of Cunel and Romagne, and finally the ridges 
of the Bois de Barricourt and the Bois de Bourgogne. 

The natural defenses of the region, Pershing reported, "were 
strengthened by every artificial means imaginable, such as fortified 
strongpoints, dugouts, successive lines of trenches, and an unlimited 
number of concrete machinegun emplacements. A dense network of 
wire entanglements covered every position. With the advantage of 
commanding ground, the enemy was peculiarly well located to pour 
oblique and flanking artillery fire on any assailant attempting to ad- 
vance within range between the Meuse and the Argonne. It was small 
wonder that the enemy had rested for four years on this front without 
being seriously molested. He felt secure in the knowledge that even 
with few divisions to hold these defenses his east and west lines of 
rail communication in the rear would be well protected against the 
probability of interference." This was the most sensitive section of the 
German front, considering LudendorfFs plans for a step-by-step with- 
drawal, since it covered the vital rail line between Metz and Mezieres. 
Loss of that line before the Germans could pull back in northern 
France and Belgium would mean the ruin of their armies. They pro- 


tected the Meuse-Argonne sector with four lines of defense, the lightly 
held forward positions, the Diselher Stellung, the Kriemhilde Stellung, 
and the Freya Stellung, all comprising a part of the Hindenburg Line. 

Against the narrow but heavily fortified sector between the Meuse 
and the western edge of the Argonne, Pershing was prepared to chan- 
nel the initial attacks of his 600,000 troops. Before he was done, twice 
that number would be thrown into the fighting. The First American 
Army's order of battle for September 26 included the III Corps (Bui- 
lard) on the right, the V Corps (Cameron) hi the center, and the I 
Corps (Liggett) on the left. In addition, the IV Corps (Dickman) and 
two French corps were holding the line between the Moselle and the 
Meuse. Other parts of the A.E.F. were still serving under French and 
British command. The crack Second Division was soon to go into 
action with the French Fourth Army when its attack bogged down. 
The whole II Corps (Read) was participating hi the British Fourth 
Army's offensive. 

Rather than leading off the Allied general offensive, less than two 
weeks after the Samt-Mihiel operation, Pershing might well have taken 
a little more time with his preparations, considering his hope and ex- 
pectation that the Meuse-Argonne line might be broken with one tre- 
mendous rush. It would have been a good time to make a stand against 
Foch, once again, and let the other Allied armies open the offensive 
while German reserves were drawn off and his own divisions prepared 
themselves more thoroughly for an assignment which the cautious 
Petain believed to call on a "more than human" effort. Pershing, how- 
ever, wanted to make good his boast to Foch that he could wipe out 
the Saint-Mihiel salient, then switch over to the Meuse-Argonne and 
attack again, all within exactly two weeks' time; and perhaps the easy 
success at Saint-Mihiel had made him overconfident. He knew that the 
Argonne would be tougher to crack, but he seems to have been ill- 
prepared psychologically and militarily for the forty-seven-day ordeal, 
the unending nightmare that encompassed the Battle of the Meuse- 
Argonne. It was the longest, toughest battle ever endured by an Ameri- 
can Army. Another few days of preparation might have lessened the 
prolonged agony. But Pershing, "canny and cautious" as Harbord said 
he was most of the time, was also capable of taking the most audacious 
risks. He was a gambler, as all great commanders must be, and like 
a gambler he believed in the Pershing luck, which had never failed 
him. And luck, it has been said, is a part of genius. 


At 5:30 A.M. on the designated day, the nine American divisions 
jumped off, preceded by a three-hour bombardment, a rolling barrage, 
189 light French tanks, and 800 French, British, and American planes. 
Opposing them on that day were five German divisions, the enemy 
commander, General Von Gallwitz, having concentrated most of his 
reserves to the east in the expectation that Metz rather than Mezieres 
would be the direction of the American attack. 

Pershing was making his headquarters on his train drawn up on a 
spur concealed in the woods near Souilly. For most of the forty-seven 
anxiety-ridden days ahead he would sleep there and work in his office 
car for several hours during the morning, then spend the rest of the 
day and often much of the night in an endless round of his corps 
and division headquarters. He spent most of his time, in fact, at the 
various command posts, raising hell with commanders who were not 
driving ahead fast enough, shaking up his command structure when 
he felt his officers weren't pushing ahead to the limit of their capacities, 
even lending encouragement on occasion. But Pershing was more of a 
driver than a coaxer; he spread more acid than balm in his constant 
round of his commanders' posts. Whatever the outcome of this fight, 
Pershing would take the full responsibility and he demanded the full 
extent of his generals' skill and determination. The Meuse-Argonne 
was fought in its larger detail on Pershing's direct orders. Colonel Mott 
of his staff wrote that before and during the battle "every move of 
every corps and almost every division was ordered by one officer- 
General Pershing." 

Both the driving energy and the lack of finesse with which the First 
American Army hammered, at high cost to both itself and the enemy, 
at the Meuse-Argonne sector derived from its commander. The Army 
operated on the "Combat Instructions" which Pershing circulated 
shortly before the campaign began and which were designed to encour- 
age initiative in every unit down to the platoon. His kind of fighting, 
he pointed out, was marked by "irregularity of formations, compara- 
tively little regulation of space and time by higher commanders, the 
greatest possible use of the infantry's own firepower to enable it to 
get forward . . . brief orders and the greatest possible use of individual 
initiative by all troops engaged in the action. . . . The infantry com- 
mander must oppose machineguns by fire from his rifles, his auto- 
matics and his rifle grenades and must close with their crews under 
cover of this fire and of ground beyond their flanks. . . . The success 


of every unit from the platoon to the division must be exploited to 
the fullest extent. When strong resistance is encountered, reinforce- 
ments must not be thrown in to make a frontal attack at this point, 
but must be pushed through gaps created by successful units, to attack 
these strong points in the flank or rear." 

By following the fire and movement pattern with which the Ameri- 
can infantry had long been indoctrinated, Pershing hoped to force his 
way quickly through fortified lines which the Germans had prepared at 
their leisure for four years. He had neither the time nor the inclination 
to work out complicated plans using the newer weapons to the fullest 
extent of their present efficiency; the terrain was miserable for tanks 
and the plane was most efficient, in his view, as an observation plat- 
form for the artillery. 

A step-by-step account of the Meuse-Argonne battle would take a 
full volume, even concisely written. A whole book has been compiled 
on the ordeal of the so-called lost battalion. The following, therefore, 
is a ruthlessly compressed account of a battle which deserves the ut- 
most elaboration. The confusion, the despair, and the agony may be 
found in the various unit histories and the recollections of the partici- 
pants; for those who weren't there the result has tended to mute and 
conceal the sheer ugliness of the whole affair. From beginning to end, 
the battle, more than most, rested on the willingness of the men to 
stick it out, climb the next slope under a cross fire of artillery and 
machine guns, hit the next machine-gun nest, head into the next gas- 
shrouded woods. It was the common soldiers' fight; the generals had 
very little to do with it. Pershing, foreseeing this lack of contact be- 
tween the commanders and their troops once the battle began, had 
painstakingly directed their whole training at being able to fight 
without constant and precise orders. When their will faltered, the cam- 
paign came to a stop; when it was renewed through rest or reinforce- 
ment, it ground forward again. 

Hardly a worse place to fight an offensive battle could have been 
found. A single theme with a thousand dissonances dominates all the 
eyewitness accounts of the fightingthe damnable difficulty of cam- 
paigning in that country the shell-pocked terrain, the mined roads, 
the mud and rain, the difficulty of hauling guns over abandoned 
trenches and brush-covered shell holes, the broken bridges, the em- 
bankments sideslipping into swamps, the all but hopeless tangles of 
trucks, caissons, staff cars, and tractor-drawn guns trying to make their 


way frontward over rutted roads, the rolling kitchens that didn't roll, 
the lack of food, shelter, and dry clothing for days on end, the eternal 
buck passing and the brass-hat stupidities. And there was no escape 
from this sodden hell except death, a wound, or certifiable shell shock 
the cordon of military police behind the front line, on Pershing's 
orders, were ruthlessly efficient about herding stragglers back to the 

The battle opened encouragingly enough. Pershing's plan was to 
drive two salients into the German line, one to the east of Montfaucon 
and the other to the west, the V Corps in the center then taking the 
dominating heights by storm. In the first day's fighting, the enemy's 
forward positions were carried and his defenses on the whaleback of 
Montfaucon were brought under fire. The night of September 26, 
Pershing wrote in his diary that he was pleased with the initial advances 
but foresaw trouble in keeping the offensive rolling. "The most serious 
problem of the day was mending the roads across what had been No 
Man's Land. This was a very difficult proposition because all of this 
ground has been fought over since the beginning of the war and ab- 
solutely every trace of the former roads there was lost." He was also 
troubled by less than satisfactory performances by the 37th, 35th, and 
28th divisions. "They were new, their staffs did not work particularly 
well, and they generally presented the failings of green troops." 

Next day his three advancing corps cracked the Germans' second 
position, the Giselher Stellung, and stormed into the ruined village of 
Montfaucon on the heights dominating the center of the Meuse- 
Argonne sector. Petain had told Pershing that the First Army would 
get no farther than that ridge before winter closed down the fighting. 

On the third day of fighting, September 28, German resistance 
stiffened as the enemy reserves moved into position and rather elderly 
but casehardened Landwehr troops, who had taken up almost per- 
manent residence in the Argonne and knew every wrinkle of the for- 
ested hills, gave the raw American troops a rough handling, particu- 
larly the 28th Division climbing the eastern spurs. Driving ahead into 
the enfilading fire of light artillery and machine guns, the less expe- 
rienced American units outran their own artillery and suffered severe 

That night Pershing visited each of his corps headquarters and was 
"dismayed by evidence of bad staffwork." He also noted in his diary 
that General Traub, commanding the 35th Division, and General 


Muir, the 28th, both of whom were engaged in the I Corps attack, 
"had to play to a certain extent the role of regimental commander" be- 
cause of the inexperience of their subordinates. Since the 28th had a 
particularly rigorous mission and General Muir complained of a 
breakdown in the function of his headquarters, Pershing immediately 
loaned him the services of General Dennis E. Nolan, his G-2 (intelli- 
gence) officer at Chaumont, and Colonel A. L. Conger, his order-of- 
battle specialist, to keep the division rolling. "I gave orders for the 
advance to be resumed," he wrote that night in his diary, "and cer- 
tainly have done all in my power to instil an aggressive spirit in the 
different Corps headquarters." 

That last line indicated a foreboding, and it was well justified. In 
the first four days an average advance of eight miles was registered 
and the line of Bois de la Cote Lemont-Nantillois-Apremont was 
reached. But the impetus was gone, and by October 4 it was necessary 
to move more experienced divisions into line and withdraw the 37th, 
79th, and 35th. They were replaced by the comparatively veteran 32nd, 
3rd, and First divisions. 

In that pause before the general attack was renewed, Pershing would 
have been less disappointed if he had been able to peer into the mind 
of General Ludendorff, who later wrote, "Between the Argonne and the 
Meuse the Americans had broken into our positions. They had as- 
sembled a powerful army [estimated at eight to one] in this region, 
and their part in the campaign became more and more important." 

The British armies, meanwhile, were attacking on a broad front 
across the Canals du Nord and de Saint-Quentin, and by October 4 
had smashed through the third zone of the Hindenburg Line. Their 
success, both in ground gained and in prisoners captured, was far 
more spectacular than the Americans' or the exceedingly deliberate 
advance of the French Fourth Army. The British deserved every bit 
of their success and the praise accorded it, but it was also true that the 
American effort not only was directed against more difficult objectives 
but was striking the Germans in a vital spot. The enemy, that is, could 
afford to yield space in Flanders but would be ruined by a break- 
through between the Meuse and the Argonne. 

From then until the end of the month the American advance was 
slow but steadier as more experienced troops were fed into the line 
and the greener outfits began to learn their business in the freezing 
cold, amid trackless forests where a chill fog tufted every tree. Per- 


shing confided to his diary that Foch "seems to have become restless 
because of the temporary stop in our advance." For the outside world, 
America in particular, the desperate nature of the fighting on the 
American front was symbolized and perhaps overdramatized by the 
plight of the mixed battalion of infantry of the 77th Division com- 
manded by Major Charles Whittlesey. It had pushed forward too 
eagerly, and German units had craftily cut in behind it and demanded 
its surrender. The battalion exhausted its food, water, and ammuni- 
tion, but not its courage, and held out until relieved by other units of 
the somewhat embarrassed division. By then the struggle of the lost 
battalion had attracted more headlines and more thunderous journal- 
istic prose than the whole U.S. battle line, of which it was a minuscule 
part; it was the one combat of World War I with which all Americans 
have some familiarity. 

While the Americans struggled to get their offensive rolling again, 
the French, in the person of Generalissimo Foch, were conducting an- 
other raid on A.E.F. Headquarters. Foch's narrow-eyed little General 
Weygand appeared at Souilly to present a scheme by which the general 
offensive would be "accelerated." The French Second Army would be 
inserted between the French Fourth and the American First and would 
take over those U.S. divisions engaged in the Argonne, while Pershing 
would be left with the remaining forces from the Argonne to the 
Moselle. Pershing suspected the new attempt to chip away at his au- 
thority was prompted by Prime Minister Clemenceau. He said no 
loudly and firmly. 

Pershing was still indignant several days later when Foch agreed 
that the command setup would remain as it was "provided that my 
attack should be resumed at once." Pershing thought that "the Mar- 
shal quite overstepped his bounds of authority. . . . His functions are 
strategical and he has no authority whatsoever to interfere in tactical 
questions. Any observations from him as to my way of carrying out 
my attack are all out of place. I will not stand for this letter which 
disparages myself and the American army and the American effort. He 
will have to retract it, or I shall go further into the matter. . . ." 

Those last three weeks in October were the most trying of his whole 
career. If ever Pershing came close to cracking, aside from the days 
following the death of his wife and daughters, it was during that pe- 
riod when it seemed that his army might be bogged down all winter 
midway through the German defense zones. During the battles of the 


Wilderness, General Grant had suffered a similar crisis of the spirit 
and will, had retired to his tent, looking a broken man, and emerged 
to announce several hours later, "It is all right ... we shall go for- 

One night during the second phase of the operations against the 
strongest position of the Hindenburg Line, Pershing appeared unan- 
nounced at the headquarters of the 90th Division, commanded by his 
old friend, General Henry T. Allen, who had served with him in Mexico 
and the Philippines. Pershing had never looked so downcast in all the 
years Allen had known him. He sat down heavily and confessed, 
"Things are going badly. We are not getting on as we should." 

General Allen, in his war diary, said that Pershing also told him 
"our advance here had not been as the Allies had anticipated, nor as 
he had anticipated. ... He told me of the failures of some of our 
divisions and their commanders, and emphasized certain points which 
he was very keen to have me impress down through all grades in the 

Much of the trouble, the generals agreed, lay in the difficulty of 
commanders in maintaining contact with their units. Allen cited a 
brigade commander who "had no knowledge of his left regiment" and 
asked that he be relieved, to which Pershing agreed. 

Apparently Pershing, in the course of that conversation, talked 
away much of what was troubling him. Before leaving his old friend, 
he squared his shoulders and said: "By God, Allen, I was never so 
much in earnest in my life, and we are going to get through." 

It was almost an echo of Grant in the Wilderness. But Grant at 
least had no allies to contend with. During that period, Pershing was 
troubled by a letter from Secretary of War Baker, who had finished 
his second tour of France and was returning home. Just before his 
departure, Baker dined with Lloyd George in Paris and was advised 
that the British Prime Minister still staked claims on U.S. troops. Lloyd 
George bitterly complained that "for all their pains and sacrifices for 
training our troops and equipping them they had gotten no good out 
of them whatever, and that the American troops had not been of any 
service to the British." He also entered an eloquent plea of "inter- 
mingling our soldiers" in the interests of Anglo-American solidarity, 
and charged that "some influence was at work to monopolize Ameri- 
can soldiers for the assistance of the French and to keep them from 
the association of the British." Baker, however, managed to fend off 


Lloyd George, and Pershing concluded that "no American general in 
the field ever received the perfect support accorded me" by the Secre- 
tary of War. 

Between October 4 and 11, the American First Army slowly fought 
its way toward the Kriemhilde Stellung, the main German defensive 
position, and the Romagne Heights on which it was based. The 4th, 
80th, 3rd, and 32nd divisions pushed their way through the Bois de 
Fays, the Bois de Peut de Faux, the Bois d'Ogons, and the Bois de 
Cunel. The First Division, dependable as always, drove a deep wedge 
in the enemy's line paralleling the wooded heights of the Argonne. At 
the same time the enemy resistance was stiffening. Alarmed at the 
Americans' progress, the German High Command was rushing divi- 
sions to the Meuse-Argonne from other sectors of the western front 
and by October 8 had twenty-seven facing the American First Army 
with seventeen others in reserve . . . the firmest of all indications that 
the enemy regarded the American offensive as the most dangerous to 
the security of its field armies. 

The hard-driving attack of the "Big Red One" which was designed 
to clear space along the Aire River, so that the rear of the enemy's 
positions in the Argonne forest could be struck a mortal blow, was 
especially important. The First, with its artillery firing off the map at 
1200 yards to give the infantry perfect cover in accordance with 
General Summerall's doctrine, had taken the whole complex of the 
enemy's defenses on the slopes of Montrefagne and the Arietal Farm. 
It was one of the crucial operations of the whole campaign, and rec- 
ognized as such by the Germans. General Von Gallwitz sent in the 
German Army's toughest outfit, the Prince Eitel Friedrich Division of 
the Prussian Guards, to drive the First back. The Guards and a Bavar- 
ian division counterattacked, and there was a morning-long fight on 
the slopes of Montrefagne, one of the rare hand-to-hand combats of 
the war, with pistols, grenades, bayonets, knives, and clubbed rifles. 
Summerall's troops held on while Von Gallwitz poured in three other 
divisions, until the U.S. 82nd came up and helped drive the Germans 
back to their Kriemhilde defenses. The vaunted Prussian Guard Divi- 
sion was so badly shot up that it was valueless during the rest of the 
war; whole battalions had been wiped out to the last man. Saturated 
with mustard gas, its groves shattered to the stump, cratered with shell 
holes, the crest of Montrefagne, dominating the terrain for miles 
around, was now firmly in American hands. 


On October 11, the second phase of the battle ended and another 
halt was necessary before the Kriemhilde Stellung could be brought 
under direct attack. 

This second halt was seized upon by Premier Clemenceau to make 
the boldest attack so far on Pershing, culminating in an all-out at- 
tempt to have him removed as commander in chief of the A.E.F. The 
smell of victory was in the air now, wafting sweet and clear through 
the clouds of poison gas, the gun smoke, and the reek of decaying 
flesh that hung over the western front. On October 6 a new German 
Government, with Prince Max of Baden as Chancellor, had assumed 
power and had immediately appealed through Switzerland to Presi- 
dent Wilson: "To avoid further bloodshed, the German government 
requests the President to arrange the immediate conclusion of an 
armistice on land, by sea, and in the air." Emboldened by the pros- 
pects of peace, Clemenceau could not resist the temptation to make 
one more try at having Pershing removed. He had been stewing over 
what he considered Pershing's inefficiency ever since late the previous 
month when he went up to look over recaptured Montfaucon and was 
caught in the jam of First Division trucks headed frontward for the 
relief of the 35th Division. The Premier of France, in fact, was trapped 
in the traffic jam for eight hours, his notorious temper boiling to the 
point of apoplexy, and never did get to Montfaucon. 

After his return to the capital, the knowledgeable circles in Paris, 
in which nothing was safe or sacred, buzzed with rumors that Cle- 
menceau was determined to have Pershing removed. On October 4, 
Colonel Dawes noted in his diary: "While John is at the front, an 
attack is being made on his management of the rear. If he cannot 
advance his army farther because his rear is disorganized, they say, 
then why not let the French and British take over more of his troops 
in their sectors." Several days later Dawes wrote, "His [Pershing's] 
attack of October 4 silenced the French military critics. Now they are 
beginning again." 

Another good friend of Pershing's who was troubled by the rumors 
was Daisy (Mrs. J. Borden) Harriman, a blonde and comely society 
woman who had come over to work with the Red Cross Motor Corps 
(and who later was United States Ambassador to Norway and a reign- 
ing hostess in Washington for many years). Mrs. Harriman often 
visited Pershing at his headquarters or dined with him in Paris. She 
attended a luncheon at the Ritz at which General Tom Bridges, the 

The President in France. Wilson and Pershing review the troops at 
Chaumont after the armistice. WIDE WORLD PHOTOS 

Homecoming in 1919. General March and Secretary of War Baker 
welcome Pershing as he arrives in New York Harbor. WIDE WORLD 

Just before retirement. In his last year as Chief of Staff, Pershing 
watches President Coolidge sign a bill on the White House lawn. WIDE 


Guidons of the old 10th Cavalry. Pershing, at Fort Myer in 1932, 
reviews the Negro regiment with which he served as a lieutenant and 
charged up San Juan Hill. WIDE WORLD PHOTOS 

The rare dimpled smile. Pershing grins with delight as his mount 
breaks into a trot along the parade route. BROWN BROTHERS 

Arch of triumph. Pershing leads the crack First Division down Fifth 
Avenue, New York, in its proudest moment. BROWN BROTHERS 

Armistice Day 1942. Pershing hears President Roosevelt promise an 
Allied victory over the Axis at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at 

Aid the Allies. Pershing, in 1940, submits to a rare interview at which 
he urged that planes, arms, and other supplies be sent overseas. WIDE 


Eightieth birthday. President Roosevelt, with Secretary of War Stimson, 
has just decorated Pershing with the Distinguished Service Cross. 


The A.E.F. staff Eighteen years later. Gathered at a West Point 
reunion were, left to right, Generals Nolan, Conner, Harbord, Pershing, 
Connor, McCoy, Moseler, Andrews, and Colonel James L. Collins, 
his former aide. WIDE WORLD PHOTOS 

The general at seventy-seven. Just before his near-fatal illness, Pershing 
attends a rodeo. His strong-minded and devoted sister, May, is at the 


No road back. The funeral ceremony for General Pershing in amphi- 
theater at Arlington. WIDE WORLD PHOTOS 

Sleep, soldier, sleep . . . Sergeant Charley Wycoff blows taps, as 
Pershing had requested. WIDE WORLD PHOTOS 


Britisher whose suggestions for the A.E.F. Pershing had rather harshly 
rejected, "began telling all his guests about the dreadful mistakes that 
were being made and how if Pershing had followed British advice, 
everything could have been averted," and a French official told her 
that Clemenceau was "furious" and that Pershing was "certainly going 
to be recalled." That night, at a British general's house in Paris, a 
"very high British official" told her Pershing would be "replaced in 
a very few days," upon which Mrs. Harriman bet him 800 pounds that 
the A.E.F. 's commander in chief would not only hang onto his post 
but would be elected President of the United States. Later that night 
she wrote in her diary (apparently there was hardly an American who 
went overseas who didn't keep a diary) : "If one woman can run into 
so much malice against Pershing in one day, what a terrific amount of 
propaganda the French and British must be making against him, and 
all because he very properly refused to continue to brigade our troops 
with theirs. To be tolerant of wartime hysteria or not to be " 

Political considerations, of course, bulked large behind the assaults 
on Pershing's competence to command. On October 7, Clemenceau, 
Lloyd George, and Orlando had met secretly to plan how to under- 
mine President Wilson's idealistic Fourteen Points program for peace 
and substitute a harsher scheme. The hardheaded Pershing, obviously, 
was another obstacle to be cleared from the Allies' path to a peace 
on their own rigorous terms; he represented not only the 1,700,000 
American troops now in France but the United States' share in the 
prospective victory. General Bliss, as United States representative on 
the Supreme War Council, warned the War Department that France 
and Britain would "attempt to minimize the American effort as much 
as possible. They think that they have got the Germans on the run 
and they now do not need as much help as they were crying for a 
little while ago. I think I told you some time ago that I had heard a 
gentleman in high position here say that the United States was building 
a bridge for the Allies to pass over; that the time for the United States 
to secure acquiescence in its wishes was while the bridge was building; 
that after the Allies had crossed over the bridge they would have no 
further use for it or its builders." 

Luxuriating in the assurance of victory, it might be added, the 
French were hardly keeping pace with the British and the Americans 
in the general offensive and were hardly in a position to criticize 
Pershing for his difficulties. Marine General John A. Lejeune of the 


U.S. 2nd Division, which was spearheading one of the French Fourth 
Army's attacks, telegraphed Pershing's headquarters that the French 
units on his flanks had let him down so badly that he would resign 
his commission rather than fight again under French command. The 
British military historian Liddell Hart (The Real War) has written 
of this tendency on the part of the French: "With shrewd strategic 
sense the French in the center appreciated that decisive results de- 
pended on the rapid penetration and closing of the pincers [by the 
British and American armies on the left and right], and so did not 
unduly hasten the retreat of the Germans facing them. In their skilful 
advance they usually kept a step in the rear of their allies on either 
flank. ... If their commanders had been slow to learn how to econ- 
omize life, they, and still more their men, had learnt it now. Perhaps 
a shade too well." 

Pershing apparently was too deeply involved in the shooting war to 
realize the extent and seriousness of the rearward campaign against 
him, although he noted after a conference with Marshal Foch at Bom- 
bon on October 13 that Foch "sees but will not admit that we are up 
against a tough proposition" in the Meuse-Argonne. 

This wasn't quite fair to the marshal, who during that highly critical 
period was actually Pershing's stanchest defender. Foch stood up for 
Pershing even as he realized that inept tactics were responsible for 
many of the Americans' difficulties. The trouble, as Foch saw it, was 
that Pershing tried to remedy his situation simply by the application of 
greater force, by shoving in more divisions on his narrow front, which 
"only intensified the difficulties, and resulted in a complete blocking of 
his rear and the bottling up of his communications." He considered 
that the results obtained by Pershing were "inferior to what was per- 
missible to expect." 

But he did not lose faith in Pershing, and he risked his own career 
to support him in the face of his Prime Minister's attacks. "I am not 
under your orders," he had told Clemenceau when the latter demanded 
action against Pershing. To which Clemenceau replied, "I have much 
good will for you, but, if I have any advice to give you, it is not to try 
that game." 

Unknown to Pershing, Foch also protected him from the machina- 
tions of his fellow commanders in chief on the western front. He for- 
bade Petain to submit a report which concluded, "If General Pershing 
perseveres in his present line of conduct, it can only end in disaster." 


At almost the same time, in mid-October, Haig asked him to requisi- 
tion two American divisions to reinforce his own advances to the north, 
showing scant sympathy for Pershing's difficulties in the Argonne and 
even less comprehension of how much annoyance such a request would 
cause at A.E.F. Headquarters. Foch kept stalling on the British re- 
quest, until Haig went over the Supreme Commander's head and ap- 
pealed to Clemenceau, who was only too pleased to urge compliance. 
Foch, however, refused to harass Pershing with the unfeeling British re- 

On October 21 he received a letter from Clemenceau which, as he 
said, proposed "nothing less than to effect a change in the chief com- 
mand of the American Army." 

"One does not have to be a technician," Clemenceau wrote, "in or- 
der to understand that the immobility of your right wing [that is, the 
American First Army] cannot possibly be a part of your plan and that 
we have lostno matter how favorably other things may have turned 
out the benefits of movements which, through lack of organization, 
have not been effected. I am aware of all the efforts you have made 
to overcome the resistance of General Pershing; indeed, it is because 
you have omitted nothing in the way of persuasion that I cannot shirk 
the duty of asking myself whether, after the failure of fruitless con- 
versation, the time has not come for changing methods. 

"When General Pershing refused to obey your orders, you could 
have appealed to President Wilson. For reasons which you considered 
more important, you put off this solution of the conflict, fearing that it 
would bring reactions of a magnitude which you thought it difficult to 

"I took the liberty of differing with you. . . . You wished to pro- 
long the experience. ... 1 think it will not take long for you to make 
up your mind on this subject. If General Pershing finally resigns himself 
to obedience, if he accepts the advice of capable generals, whose pres- 
ence he has until now permitted only that he might reject their coun- 
sels, I shall be wholly delighted." 

In demanding that Foch arrange for Pershing's dismissal, Clemen- 
ceau overestimated the extent of the marshal's powers as Allied com- 
mander in chief. In his memoirs, the Premier revealed that only Per- 
shing's "passive resistance" irked him more than Foch's reluctance to 
command rather than persuade, than his arguments that "you have to 


know how to lead the Allies. You must not command them. ... I 
have to persuade, instead of directing." 

Foch, in any case, refused to go along with his irascible chief, and 
two days later sent Clemenceau a memorandum showing that of thirty 
U.S. combat divisions ten were serving with the French and British 
armies, the remainder in the American, and tried to placate him by 
promising that he would vary the proportions, "increasing the ten and 
diminishing the twenty, whenever operations being prepared permit it." 
The generalissimo later wrote that "having a more comprehensive 
knowledge of the difficulties encountered by the American Army, I 
could not acquiesce in the radical solution contemplated by M. Cle- 
menceau." To Foch there was "no denying the magnitude of the effort 
made by the American Army," and no matter how unsympathetic he 
had seemed to Pershing he realized that the Americans were operating 
"over particularly difficult terrain and in the face of serious resistance 
by the enemy." It was not the least of the occasions on which Foch 
demonstrated that he could act fairly and reasonably as co-ordinator, 
arbiter, and generalissimo of all the Allied forces. 

The French President Poincare, on reading Clemenceau's letter to 
Foch, was shocked at the Premier's tirade against Pershing and de- 
manded, "Is it M. Clemenceau's business to concern himself with what 
Marshal Foch does as commander-in-chief of the American Army? 
In that capacity is not Marshal Foch responsible rather to the Ameri- 
can government?" 

When the news of Clemenceau's aborted maneuver reached the 
Americans, their reaction was understandably indignant, particularly 
since Pershing's removal was being touted on the threshold of victory 
and peace. Clemenceau's proposal thus seemed all the more vindictive 
and senseless. Harbord thought that he was "writing about things of 
which he had been ignorant even in his splendid prime." Secretary of 
War Baker commented that "it would be a long time before any Ameri- 
can commander would be removed by any European premier." In 
Pershing's opinion, Clemenceau's proposal was an attempt to "dis- 
credit our accomplishments" and a "political gesture designed to mini- 
mize America's prestige at the peace conference." 

During the days in which Clemenceau was attacking from Paris, 
Pershing was regrouping for the decisive thrusts against the German 
rail complex in Lorraine. He had called a halt October 1 1 and shook 
up the structure of his forces, rested and refitted until October 14, when 


the offensive was resumed against its toughest objectives with still 
greater force and power. During that interval he extended the front 
of his attack and created the Second American Army; corps, division, 
and brigade commanders who had not pushed hard enough in the 
first two weeks of fighting were demoted or relieved of command. In 
the process, Pershing became an army group commander, like Petain 
and Haig, though that was not the expressed purpose of the realign- 

On resumption of the offensive, the First Army was to be com- 
manded by General Liggett, the Second Army by General Bullard. 
The Second, with three U.S. divisions, was to take over the sector from 
Port-sur-Seille east of the Moselle to Fresnes-en-Woevre southeast of 
Verdun and eventually attack in the direction of the Briey iron fields. 
Its principal function was to distract the enemy while the First Army 
continued to pound away at the Hindenburg Line and break through 
to the lateral railroads which even now were within the range of 
heavy artillery. Pershing had been advised that Germany had asked 
for an armistice, but did not intend to allow the enemy to strengthen 
his defenses while bargaining for peace. "There can be no conclusion 
to this War," he said, "until Germany is brought to her knees." 

In the command shake-up, Summerall had been promoted to com- 
mand of the V Corps, Hines to the III Corps, Muir to the IV Corps, 
and Dickman shifted to I Corps. Cameron had been demoted from V 
Corps to command of the 4th Division. Three major generals and 
three brigadiers were relieved of their commands, including General 
Clarence Edwards of the 26th Division, an exceedingly popular com- 
mander whose relief brought a roar of protest from the New England 
states from which most of his troops were enlisted. There were many 
who thought that sending General Edwards home was as brutal and 
unnecessary as Pershing's dismissal through the machinations of Pre- 
mier Clemenceau would have been, but the commander in chief con- 
sidered that Edwards had not been vigorous enough in handling his 

Pershing now concentrated his forces for the final drives over the 
wooded and fortified heights beyond which lay the Metz-Mezieres rail 
line, the city of Sedan with all its tragic significance to French history, 
and victory. Men were being rushed to the front as replacements 
straight from the troopships, a matter which caught the critical eye of 
General March, the chief of staff in Washington. March, in his The 


Nation at War, condemned Pershing for insisting on too much training 
for American troops, claiming that the "keen edge of the enthusiasm" 
was dulled by too much drill. Pershing refused to accept his views, 
March said, "until the tremendous Argonne battle compelled all his 
theories to vanish, and he had to shove men into the fighting just as 
fast as he could get them." The hypercritical March, of course, chose 
to ignore the fact that Pershing insisted on thorough training only 
until it became a luxury he could not afford when the heavy fighting 
in the Meuse-Argonne began. General March also condemned Per- 
shing's demand for a 100-division army in France, pointing out that 
"near the end of October we passed in strength the entire British force 
operating in France and Belgium, and with the advent of the eighty- 
division program, we would have a larger force in France than any of 
the Allies." 

Great and growing as its strength was, the American Army's opera- 
tions were marked by a wastage of men and material, by necessarily 
hasty improvisations, by an almost desperate explosion of military 
energy. Almost 1,200,000 American troops were thrown into the line 
before the campaign ended. All this against an enemy weakened by 
four years of fighting, demoralized by starvation on the home front, 
and alarmed by a foreshadowing of the defection of its Bulgarian, 
Turkish, and Austrian allies. Many German divisions were reduced to 
the size of American regiments, or less, and often the defending forces 
were outnumbered ten to one, or more; every counterattack was 
smothered and quickly followed by American units driving in on its 
flanks and endangering the assault force. The bulk of America's mili- 
tary power was concentrated on a narrow but vital section of the 
German front; never was a tiny piece of strategic real estate so satu- 
rated with men and guns and death, and yet, in the end, the American 
casualties totaled almost as much as the whole defending force. Had 
the Meuse-Argonne sector been defended by the German Army of 
1915, the cost would have been prohibitive. 

In the renewed attack of October 14, the Germans were to be driven 
back all along the line, with especially violent blows aimed at their 
center on the heights of Romagne and Cunel. The French XVII Corps, 
under Pershing's command, was to attack east of the Meuse; west of 
the Meuse, the American First Army's III and V corps were reinforced 
with the 5th and 42nd divisions and directed to drive salients into the 
German lines around the Bois de Romagne and the Bois de Banthe- 


ville, while the I Corps held the enemy with its left and advanced with 
its right in conjunction with the left of the V Corps. The French 
Fourth Army, operating on the left flank of the American First, was 
to support these advances by attacking along the west bank of the 
Aisne and on the eastern edge of the Argonne. 

From then until the end of the month there was a steady hammer- 
ing at the intricate defenses of the Hindenburg Line. Slowly it began 
to crumble. The 32nd Division, heedless of heavy losses, stormed the 
Cote Dame Marie and captured the key position of the Kriemhilde 
Stellung, then went on to take the town of Romagne and the eastern 
half of the Bois de Romagne. Almost equally important was the as- 
signment of the 42nd Division, which was to advance through the 
western half of the Bois de Romagne and scale its commanding heights, 
the Cote de Chatillon. 

Summerall, the V Corps commander, planned to take the hill by 
frontal assault, following artillery preparation. General Douglas Mac- 
Arthur, now commander of the 84th Brigade of the 42nd, argued in 
favor of a night bayonet attack. The dispute was settled when Mac- 
Arthur, examining an aerial map of the position, discovered a gap in 
the enemy wire. Discarding both plans, they settled on a brilliant com- 
promise: a hundred men rushed through the gap under a brisk cover- 
ing fire, flanked the German defenses, and held out against a counter- 
attack until the rest of the brigade could move up in force and take the 
hill at small cost. Pershing did not ordinarily view MacArthur with 
any great favor, but he praised the shrewd and economical thrust as 
"an aggressive action against the most obstinate defense." Seizure of 
the keystone of the Hindenburg Line had resulted in flanking the enemy 
forces on the Aisne, to the west, and on the heights of the Meuse, to 
the east. 

Something of the cost of these advances was indicated in Pershing's 
report on how he had to cannibalize divisions fresh from the States 
to gather up replacements for those engaged at the front. "We now 
had to use as replacements the personnel of two more arriving divi- 
sions, although even these were not enough. In all, we skeletonized 
four combat divisions and three depot divisions to obtain men for 
units at the front." The Germans, meanwhile, were drawing in a total 
of forty-seven divisions, many from the French and British sectors of 
the western front and others from the Balkan and eastern fronts. Be- 
hind them, however, the German will to resist was violently and rapidly 


disintegrating, with the German Navy mutinying at Kiel on October 
29 and igniting a spark of revolt that spread through the nation. 

With further local advances, particularly those of the American I 
Corps and the French Fourth Army around the Bois de Bourgogne 
flanking the enemy positions on the Aisne, the American armies were 
ready for the fourth and final phase of the operations in the Meuse- 
Argonne. Another halt was necessary for regrouping. The attack would 
be renewed on November 1. 

Victory was in their grasp now, but there was no marked easing in 
the relations of the Allied commanders. Rarely have so many touchy 
gentlemen been gathered under one banner. Even the exhilarating pros- 
pect of success failed to generate much warmth or generosity among 

Continuing tension in the Allied High Command was indicated by 
two incidents occurring when Pershing left his headquarters outside 
Souilly to confer with Foch and Haig late in October, as it was be- 
coming obvious that the German Army could not last out the winter. 

Marshal Foch had appointed General Maistre, who commanded the 
group of armies including the French Fourth, which was moving in 
unison with the First American Army's left, to "coordinate" the move- 
ments of both armies. It was one last stab at establishing control over 
Pershing's activities. Pershing had already formulated his plans for 
continuing the advance on November 1 by moving on Boult-aux-Bois 
and flanking the enemy's forces in the Bourgogne forest and along the 
Aisne. Foch, through Maistre, submitted his own plan for this opera- 
tion, changing the direction of the attacks. Pershing refused to con- 
sider it on the grounds that "it was quite beyond the Marshal's prov- 
ince to give instructions regarding the tactical conduct of operations." 

Marshal Haig, during a conference at Senlis, somehow offended 
Pershing by remarks which the latter considered disparaging to the 
American Army. Exactly what Haig said was not recorded, but he 
wrote Pershing a few days later: 

"I have just heard [from Pershing's liaison officer, Major Robert 
Bacon] that some of the remarks which I made at the conference at 
Senlis on Saturday were misinterpreted so as to give an idea of 'fail- 
ure' to the work of the American army since it came to France. . . . 
I yield to no one in my admiration for the grand fighting qualities of 
the American soldier and the manner in which you and your staff have 


overcome the greatest difficulties during the past year. So such an 
idea had never entered my head." 

Pershing rather stiffly replied that he was satisfied with "the official 
correction that you have made." 

In a few days the Allies would be revealing a much wider and 
more historically important divergence of opinion over how the war 
was to be concluded. 

15. Victory, Peace, and Departure 

In the closing days of October, only the wildest of the Pan-German 
dreamers could have hoped that Kaiser Wilhelm and his spike-hel- 
meted field marshals would find a way of continuing the war. The front 
was being ruptured in a dozen places, none more seriously than at 
home, where the red flags were blossoming and revolutionary agitators 
were becoming bolder and louder every day. The Belgians and the 
British were heading for the Scheldt on a broad front, the French and 
the Americans were regrouping for final thrusts toward the Rhine. De- 
fection had broken out among Germany's allies; Bulgaria had quit, 
Turkey would sign an armistice agreement on October 30, and Austria 
would resign from the fighting a few days later. Ludendorff departed 
from the High Command on October 27 rather than witness the scenes 
of disorder and disintegration that his gamble of that spring had 
brought about. Europe was ready to let slip the hounds of peace 
and vengeance. Only the mechanics of quieting the guns had to be 
worked out. Meanwhile, thousands would die, would be wounded, 
would have their lungs seared by poison gas, while their nominal bet- 
ters searched for a formula. 

President Wilson, on whom the Germans were relying for a generous 
peace, had demanded as preliminaries the acceptance of his Fourteen 
Points and the evacuation of all occupied territories. The Germans 
swallowed hard but finally agreed. Then Wilson announced that the 
terms of the projected armistice would have to be drawn up by the 
military advisers of the Allied governments, which suggested that the 
dove of peace might have iron wings and steel claws. Over the bitter 
protests of his own military leaders, Prince Max of Baden, the new 


German Chancellor, who realized better than they that the war could 
be borne no longer, acceded to Wilson's conditions. 

Now it devolved upon the Allied commanders to formulate the 
terms of an armistice. Foch, Petain, Haig, and Pershing met in Paris 
on October 28 to discuss the problem of separating two huge war 
machines which had been in collision for four years. A paradox soon 
developed: France and Britain, though they had suffered the most in 
the war against Germany, favored the more moderate terms, while the 
American insisted (like his prototype General Grant) on unconditional 
surrender, that rigid phrase which has hypnotized American com- 
manders ever since. 

Haig, who spoke first, pointed out that the German armies were 
capable of withdrawing to a shorter line and making a strong stand 
on their own borders. He was also pessimistic about the state of the 
Allied armies; the French and British were each short about 250,000 
men, and the American had sustained 75,000 casualties during its 
October campaigning. He favored terms which he believed Germany 
might accept: evacuation of Belgian and French territory, Allied oc- 
cupation of Alsace, Lorraine, and the fortresses of Metz and Stras- 
bourg, restitution of rolling stock seized by the Germans, and re- 
patriation of the inhabitants of all invaded territory. "If hostilities 
should' be resumed," Sir Douglas told the conference, "I would prefer 
to find the Germans entrenched behind their old frontier of 1870 than 
to find them on the right bank of the Rhine." 

Marshal Foch was more optimistic about the relative conditions of 
the Allied and German armies. He pointed out that "we are dealing 
with an army that has been pounded every day for three months. . . . 
Certainly the Allied armies are not new, but victorious armies are never 
fresh. In this matter the question is relative; the German armies are 
far more exhausted than ours. Certainly the British and French armies 
are tired; certainly the American Army is a young army, but it is full 
of idealism and strength and ardor. It has already won victories and 
is now on the eve of another victory; and nothing gives wings to an 
army like victory. When one hunts a wild beast and finally comes 
upon him at bay, one then faces greater danger, but it is not the time 
to stop, it is time to redouble one's blows without paying any attention 
to those he, himself, receives." 

General Petain's scheme was to deprive Germany of its materiel to 
prevent it from continuing the war if the armistice was revoked. He 


wanted the enemy to be required to withdraw on a schedule which he 
had worked out and which he believed would force them to abandon 
much of their heavier equipment. P6tain also favored a German re- 
tirement east of the Rhine and the establishment of Allied bridgeheads 
at Mayence, Coblenz, and Cologne. His terms thus were much severer 
than Haig's. 

Pershing's were harshest of all. "I think that the damage done by 
the war to the interests of the powers with which the United States is 
associated against Germany has been so great that there should be no 
tendency toward leniency. 

"The present military situation is very favorable to us. The German 
forces since the beginning of the counteroffensive on July 18 have been 
constantly in retreat and have not been able to recover since that time. 
The condition of the French and British armies can best be judged by 
the fact that they have been continuously on the offensive since then 
and that they are now attacking with as much vigor as ever. As to the 
American Army . . . it is constantly increasing in strength and train- 
ing ... there is every reason to suppose that the American Army will 
be able to take the part expected of it in the event of resumption of 

In any event, Pershing wanted French and Belgian territory evac- 
uated within thirty days, the Allied occupation of Alsace-Lorraine, the 
withdrawal of the German armies east of the Rhine, the establish- 
ment of bridgeheads to "insure control of that river," the surrender of 
all U-boats and U-boat bases and "unrestricted transportation of the 
American Army and its material across the seas." 

Haig balked at demanding the surrender of German submarines, 
saying, "That is none of our affair. It is a matter for the Admiralty to 

Pershing with some asperity insisted that "we should have our com- 
munications free from danger," and Foch agreed with him. 

Wilson's comments on Pershing's proposals included the view that 
"the terms of the armistice should be rigid enough to secure us against 
renewal of hostilities by Germany but not humiliating beyond that 
necessity, as such terms would throw the advantage to the military 
party in Germany." 

Both to the Supreme War Council and the President, Pershing elabo- 
rated on his entirely correct estimate that Germany's "internal politi- 
cal conditions" made it absolutely necessary to "ask for an armistice 


to save the overthrow of her present Government, a consummation 
which should be sought by the Allies as precedent to permanent peace." 

He wanted a "dictated peace" to "insure its permanence." 

His appraisal of the military situation was both shrewd and realistic 
as he pointed out: 

"It is the experience of history that victorious armies are prone to 
overestimate the enemy's strength and too eagerly seek an opportunity 
for peace. This mistake is likely to be made now on account of the 
reputation Germany has gained through her victories of the last four 

"Finally, I believe the complete victory can only be obtained by 
continuing the war until we force unconditional surrender from Ger- 
many, but if the Allied Governments decide to grant an armistice, the 
terms should be so rigid that under no circumstances could Germany 
take up arms again." 

Pershing wanted the German soldiers to march home "virtually as 
paroled prisoners of war." The more fearful counsels of the other 
Allies, particularly the British, prevailed, however, and the vindictive- 
ness was applied instead at the "peace" tables of Versailles, where a 
measured generosity would have been more seemly both as a human 
and historic consequence. The result was, as Pershing rather bitterly re- 
marked in his memoirs, that the German troops were permitted to 
"march back to their homeland with colors flying and bands playing, 
posing as the victim of political conditions." 

General Bullard, commanding the Second American Army, was 
equally uneasy over the German proposal for an armistice and wrote 
in his diary that "I had been unable to see that he was hard-pressed 
by the Allies-well, yes, hard-pressed, but not enough to make him 
cry out for peace. We have been driving him, but not fast or killingly." 
Bullard believed that "if peace came now it would be a Boche victory, 
nothing less. . . ." 

On November 1, the American First Army and the French Fourth, 
with the American Second scheduled to join in several days later, 
opened their final offensive. 

Pershing had been stricken with the grippe during the Allied con- 
ference hi Paris, but crawled out of his sickbed to return to Souilly and 
his headquarters the night of October 31. He was determined to be on 
hand, pale and gaunt though he was, when his armies loosed their 
hardest punch of the war. In the front line at 5:30 A.M., November 


1, from left to right, were the I Corps, with the 78th, the 77th, and 
80th divisions; the V Corps, with the 2nd (retrieved from the French) 
and the 89th; and the III Corps, with the 3rd and 32nd divisions. In 
corps reserve, immediately behind the line, were the First and 42nd 
divisions, ready to leapfrog into action. The heaviest blow was to be 
directed in the center against the Barricourt ridge, followed by a drive 
to link up the I Corps with the French Fourth Army at Boult-aux-Bois 
and flank the strong German defenses in the Bourgogne forest. 

Summerall had 608 guns, including 155s hauled up to the infantry's 
positions, on his two-division front. 

"What about a counterattack?" correspondents asked him on the 
evening of October 3 1 . 

"Gentlemen," replied the supremely confident Summerall, "there 
will be no counterattack." 

In the gray light of the next morning, the American infantry went 
forward behind a tremendous barrage that rolled across a zone 1200 
yards in depth. Summerairs guns smothered the German lines to the 
extent that three enemy artillery regiments were captured in the first 
few hours. Large formations of Allied bombers plastered the German 
supply and communications lines, ammunition dumps, and moving 
columns. Three batteries of fourteen-inch naval guns pounded away at 
the enemy's rail lines far in the rear. Before the day was over, the V 
Corps took the heights of Barricourt, the III Corps veered over to 
the Meuse, and the I Corps made lesser gains against the wooded 
heights on its front. That night the Germans admitted in their com- 
munique that their line had been broken. 

The whole army was moving forward, and that night, when the 
Germans failed to organize a counterattack, Pershing knew that the 
enemy was on the run. In the next two days, the III Corps stormed 
across the Meuse, I Corps took Buzancy, an important road center, 
and V Corps in the center further exploited its gains beyond Barricourt. 
Colonel Marshall, the First Army's operations officer, believed that if 
the Americans had been equipped with their proper quota of tanks 
they could have taken 100,000 prisoners after Buzancy was captured. 
Marshall's operations report on November 5 summed up the situation 
tersely: "Enemy retreating with his infantry in confusion and his artil- 
lery actively employed. Situation favorable for pressing the pursuit." 

It was tallyho from then on, with Sedan the prize of the chase. The 
broken and retreating German divisions offered little resistance in the 


race for the historic city. It would have meant a lot to concede to the 
French the honor of retaking Sedan, where they had lost the decisive 
battle of 1870-71; in a later war, when Americans could afford to be 
more generous, a French armored division would be propelled to the 
front and lead the march into Paris; but this time the Americans, 
Pershing above all, were not inclined to consider their ally's sensi- 

"In view of this historic sentiment," wrote General Harbord, dis- 
mayed at the chauvinistic temper of the day, "it does not seem to have 
been a very happy choice for an American goal, though a very natu- 
ral one." 

The orders resulting in the race for Sedan, which was marked 
by the sort of recklessness in command and ineptitude in staff work 
which the French and British had long criticized in the American 
Army, went out on November 5. It has generally been accepted that 
this was a spur-of-the-moment decision by the American High Com- 
mand, but General Pershing's diary shows that two days earlier he 
had become involved in a row with General Maistre over the move- 
ment on Sedan. By that time it was obvious that the French would 
not be able to push ahead fast enough to reach Sedan ahead of the 

On November 3, Pershing had recorded in his diary that he had a 
"very plain talk" with Maistre, the French army group commander on 
his left, "about his overstepping his authority to the extent of giving 
an order that the First American Army would continue its attack. He 
meant nothing by it, but the matter could not be overlooked. ... I 
remonstrated against his having drawn the line which divides us from 
the French in such a manner as to oblique the Americans to the right 
so they strike the Meuse above Sedan. He said it was because the 
French would have no road unless we did this. / said 1 wanted my 
troops to take Sedan." 

Two days later Pershing wrote that he had told General Dickman, 
commander of I Corps, that "I would like to see his Corps have the 
honor of taking Sedan. ..." The next day he reported that an agree- 
ment had been reached with General Maistre to take Sedan "if we 
arrive first." 

General Maistre, Harbord commented in his history of the A.E.F., 
"must have felt very much as the American Revolutionary Army would 


have felt if Rochambeau had asked to be permitted to elbow Wash- 
ington out of the reviewing stand at Yorktown." 

It was an undeniably graceless affair from top to bottom. The re- 
sult was that Pershing's directive, as framed by his staff and executed 
by his unit commanders, turned the race for Sedan into a military 
nightmare which tangled up two of his best divisions and laid the 
American front open to a disastrous counterattack, had the Germans 
been strong enough to take advantage of the opportunity. 

The first mix-up occurred in the order issued on the evening of 
November 5, which was directed to the commanding generals of the I 
and V corps and which read: 

"1. General -Pershing desires that the honor of entering Sedan 
should fall to the First American Army. He has every confidence that 
the troops of the First Corps, assisted on their right by the Fifth Corps, 
will enable him to realize this desire. 

"2. In transmitting the foregoing message, your attention is invited 
to the favorable opportunity now existing for pressing our advance 
throughout the night. Boundaries will not be considered binding/' 

The order was drawn up by Colonel George C. Marshall, but the 
last sentence was added by General Drum, the chief of staff of the 
First Army. General Liggett, the commander of the First Army, was 
away from headquarters and did not even learn of the order until noon 
of November 7, by which time all the damage had been done, 

On receiving this order, General Dickman, I Corps, and General 
Summerall, V Corps, translated it into action. Next day Summerall 
ordered the First Division, now under Major General Frank Parker's 
command, to head for Sedan by the most direct route in five columns. 
This meant the division would have to cut leftward across the path of 
the advancing 1 Corps and elements of the Fourth French Army. Sum- 
merall's justification for ordering the movement-if there was any- 
was the last sentence in the order from First Army Headquarters, 
which erased the boundaries between I and V corps. In so doing, he 
disregarded the earlier sentence-expressing Pershing's real intention- 
stating that his corps was to assist I Corps, presumably only if called 
upon, in the attack toward Sedan. 

The result was monumental confusion. In mud and rain the First 
Division set out on its forced march the night of November 6, pro- 
ceeding over shell-pitted roads bordered by thick forests, the trucks in 
the columns traveling without headlights. Thus it blundered into the 


areas of the I Corps' 42nd and 77th divisions, blocking their advance 
though they had been closer to Sedan than the First when the race 

Leading elements of the First Division traded fire with two com- 
panies of the 42nd's 168th Iowa Infantry around Haracourt until they 
realized their mistake. First Division scouts came across Brigadier Gen- 
eral Douglas MacArthur of the 42nd's 84th Brigade at his command 
post near Beaumiel Farm, eyed his informal attire, and decided he was 
a German officer. MacArthur, whose indignation may be imagined, 
was taken prisoner and hauled off to a brigade HQ of the First Divi- 
sion, where he was finally given back his freedom. Later in the night 
the First's 26th Infantry, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Theodore 
Roosevelt, Jr., crossed the boundary into the forward area of the 
Fourth French Army, where their ally's 40th Division intended to lay 
down a barrage. The French warned Roosevelt that his regiment would 
be fired upon if it was not withdrawn in an hour. Roosevelt gave 
ground before the deadline expired. 

For several hours during the morning of November 7, a local war 
threatened to break out between the French and American commands. 
The 42nd Division, which had also started pushing toward Sedan, 
similarly ventured into territory the French Army had staked out for 
itself. Its headquarters was notified by the French at 10 A.M. that their 
artillery would open up on any troops obstructing the French advance 
on Sedan. 

Late that morning General Liggett finally learned of the scrambled 
situation of his divisions on the left, flew into an uncharacteristic but 
well-justified rage, and headed for I Corps Headquarters, where he 
denounced General Dickman for having caused all the trouble. Dick- 
man, hotly protesting his innocence, showed him that the primary 
source of the confusion lay elsewhere. Liggett did what he could to 
restore order by immediately directing his divisions to stay out of the 
path of the French advance. 

Both the First and the 42nd reached the heights south and west of 
Sedan, but orders were radioed from G.H.Q. holding them there. 
Marshal Foch had come to the aid of his army by demanding that the 
boundary between the French Fourth and the American First armies 
be respected. With this assist, French troops finally claimed the honor 
of marching into Sedan first, although American patrols had ventured 
into the city beforehand. 


The feckless contest for Sedan set off an eruption of charges and 
denunciations. An inquiry was ordered with tongue in cheek, but, with 
so many large reputations endangered, it came to nothing. "Under 
normal conditions," Pershing wrote in his memoir, "the action of the 
officer or officers responsible for this movement of the First Division 
directly across the zones of action of two other divisions could not 
have been overlooked, but the splendid record of that unit and the 
approach of the end of hostilities suggested leniency." 

A great deal of leniency, as a matter of fact, was spread around in 
suppressing any inquiry into the clownish advance on Sedan. The ul- 
timate responsibility was Pershing's for having issued the order which 
initiated the movement and for not seeing to it that it was properly 
phrased and clearly understood. His statement to General Dickman 
of November 5 that he wanted V Corps to take Sedan, as quoted in 
his diary, indicated the operation was clear enough in his own mind. 

By the time it reached lower echelons, because of the way it was 
phrased by Marshall and Drum, the order was regarded as the start- 
ing signal for a pell-mell steeplechase which brought out the school- 
boy in his generals. Summerall had obviously exceeded his orders in 
recklessly pushing ahead the First Division rather than supporting a 
more orderly advance by I Corps on his left. The rashness at corps 
headquarters naturally infected his unit commanders. Dickman, who 
"went to his grave embittered and unforgiving," according to Harbord, 
had obeyed orders to the best of his ability. Liggett was also under- 
standably outraged at the way his army had been maneuvered into a 
ridiculous impasse without consulting him. One of the many residual 
mysteries of the whole operation, in fact, is just how he was kept in 
ignorance of the order until noon of November 7, forty hours after it 
was issued. 

Controversy over the tanglefooted lunge at Sedan was muted, how- 
ever, by a general rejoicing among the Allies. On November 9, 
negotiations for an armistice were already in progress; the American 
First and Second armies were preparing to cross the Meuse on a broad 
front toward Metz and the Briey iron fields; and the Germans' vital 
communications in Lorraine had been disrupted. The Americans had 
fought their way through twenty-five miles of "the strongest fortified 
position outside of the Verdun-Douaumont area of 1915 and 1916" 
in the Argonne a forty-seven-day campaign in which 117,000 men 
were killed, wounded, or captured. Pershing was able to report to the 


War Department that "the strategical goal which was our highest hope" 
had been attained. "We had cut the enemy's main line of communica- 
tions and nothing but surrender or an armistice could save his army 
from complete disaster." 

On November 10 the German Emperor fled to Holland, and at 5 
A.M. the following day Foch and the German Armistice Commission 
agreed that a cease fire was to be ordered six hours hence. 

In the interval between 5 A.M. and 11 A.M. on November 11, when 
the fighting on the other fronts died down to an occasional spatter 
of gunfire, some of the American units were still attacking, possibly 
because word of the approaching cease fire had not yet reached them. 

Herbert Corey, the correspondent of the New York Globe, who had 
a pronounced aversion to war and the brass-hat mentality, wrote of 
interviewing a general whose troops were still fighting at 8 A.M. that 
morning. "I have thrown my men against the wire three times," the 
general exulted. "They were magnificent." The men had suffered heavy 
losses in that useless operation. Corey also quoted a field surgeon at 
a dressing station behind that section of the line : "I did not leave the 
operating table for forty-eight hours after that attack. I did not operate. 
I just stood there and butchered." The correspondent thought Per- 
shing would be called to account for those last-minute attacks, but the 
censors "discouraged comment upon them." In his memoirs, Pershing 
explained those unnecessary sacrifices of the war's last few hours as 
being due to the fact that "our troops had been advancing rapidly 
during the preceding two days and although every effort was made to 
reach them promptly a few could not be overtaken before the pre- 
scribed hour." 

At 1 1 A.M. the whole battle line from the North Sea to the Swiss 
frontier ground to a halt. The last wisps of cordite and poison gas 
drifted away into the gray sky and an incredible silence enveloped the 
barbed wire, the shell holes, and the splintered trees which lay between 
the contending armies. Eastward could be seen the field-gray ranks of 
the Germans heading back to their ruined country. 

There were few celebrations in No Man's Land. Peace had come 
with stunning impact. Most men tried to grasp it in an unbelieving 
silence. At the moment they had nothing to say, nothing to cheer; not 
with millions dead and more millions of lives ruined. During the first 
numbing hours of the armistice the men of the western front were 
living in a vacuum, wondering whether the peace was real or the fight- 


ing might be resumed, whether the Germans were really through or 
might use the cease fire to regroup behind another defense line. 

Civilians were quicker to grasp the fact of peace. The streets of 
New York and London erupted immediately with celebrations. In 
Paris a thousand church bells rang; shops and offices closed, and hun- 
dreds of thousands of people poured into the Place de la Concorde 
to salute their leaders, their soldiers, and each other. All that night the 
celebrations continued in the Allied capitals. 

And what of Pershing during that day of mad rejoicing? A more 
flamboyant type would have sped to Paris to join other generals on 
the balconies and respond to the cheers of the multitudes; a more 
sentimental or publicity-conscious commander would have hastened 
to his troops and posed for photographs with "our boys at the front," 
but Pershing, the plain businessman of war, spent the day at his desk 
in Chaumont. One may wonder whether he even looked up from his 
work when the eleventh hour struck and the vast establishment he had 
organized brought its death-dealing activities to a halt. He was busy 
with plans for following up the German retreat into the Rhineland, 
as provided in the armistice agreement. 

Later in the day General Dawes called him from Paris, thinking 
that "his mind might be on the victory," but "it was characteristic of 
the commander-in-chief that he was hard at work, and what he wanted 
was to talk over the plan for a financial section of the General Staff." 
To Dawes's congratulations, Pershing replied in his offhand manner 
that "he would not regard that he had succeeded until the army was 
safely back in the United States." 

Pershing's sense of detachment in moments when everyone else was 
succumbing to a mass emotion was all but inhuman; it was also the 
mark of a man who, in pursuing his ambitions, in accepting the loneli- 
ness of high places, had schooled himself to retire within himself on 
great occasions. Who knew better than Pershing what had been ac- 
complished? Only a lesser ego would have to be informed of this by 
cheering crowds. 

He waited until the next day to call on Marshal Foch, hoping the 
excitement would have subsided by then, but the streets of the capital 
were still noisy and turbulent with celebration. General Harbord, who 
was to meet him that evening, wrote that "Paris was still a seething 
mass of people of all the world but Germany, shouting in all tongues 
but German." When Billy Mitchell ventured on the streets in his open 


touring car, twenty-two bibulous strangers clambered aboard, pelted 
him with flowers, and rode around the city with him. 

Pershing managed to slip through the capital unnoticed to suburban 
Senlis, where Foch was waiting at his headquarters. Here for the first 
time since the hour of the armistice Pershing's poker-faced features 
relaxed. Much as they quarreled and as often as they suspected each 
other's motives, Foch possessed an odd talent for bringing out what- 
ever was emotional in Pershing's nature. The American was particu- 
larly touched when Foch told him how much he appreciated Pershing's 
"straightforward dealing," perhaps because he prided himself most on 
that. They were so overcome by mutual admiration, Pershing wrote, 
"that both of us were unable to restrain the tears, and the Marshal 
in his enthusiasm gave me an old-fashioned French accolade" that 
is, a whiskery kiss on each of his comrade's leathery cheeks. 

That night, back in the tumultuous heart of Paris, Pershing further 
relaxed with his old friends, Harbord and Dawes. The latter, accord- 
ing to Harbord, had become "Exhibit A" in Paris society because of 
his "unconventionality" and his curious habit of demanding that a 
long cigar and a large cup of coffee be served with dinner. Presumably 
the fact that Dawes was head of the Military Board of Allied Supply, 
in charge of purchasing hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of sup- 
plies and equipment, did not hinder his social career any more than his 
much publicized service with the A.E.F. harmed his political aspira- 
tions. Harbord believed that his straightening out of the American 
purchasing system couldn't have been "so well performed by any 
other living man," and as chief of the S.O.S. he ought to have known. 

After dinner the three friends went to the Folies-Bergere to see Zig- 
Zag again. Harbord noticed that Pershing kept "shrinking back un- 
seen behind the high partitions," but he was finally recognized in 
Dawes's box by the audience and was embarrassed genuinely, it may 
be believed by a wildly enthusiastic demonstration. 

The cheering would soon die down as Europe turned back to work, 
reconstruction, and the long wrangle over peace terms at Versailles. 
Pershing would have no part in those negotiations, but he foresaw 
President Wilson's difficulties when the idealism with which America 
entered the war encountered the pragmatism of a Europe whose feuds 
went back to the days when barbaric tribes roamed the continent. 
Having already dealt with Clemenceau and Lloyd George himself, 
Pershing knew that Wilson's meetings with those savagely political gen- 


tlemen were likely to resemble a cutthroat poker game on a Mississippi 
river boat. The loser also was predictable. "He has been a good Presi- 
dent to us, backed the Army well, but he has his hands full now," Per- 
shing said. 

The inclination of the Allies to minimize the military importance 
of American participation was becoming less subtle. Hardly had the 
guns stopped firing before the fervor with which Americans had been 
welcomed to Europe was being damped down. Sensing this swift 
change in attitude, General Bullard, Francophile though he was, 
wrote in his diary immediately after the armistice that "our work in 
Europe is finished. I would like to see our army go home on our side 
of the world. I have recently jokingly proposed to Frenchmen to leave 
the Allies Mr. Wilson's fourteen articles and go home. The joke amused 
but the idea worried them." The next day he wrote, "Little things are 
beginning to happen between American and French authorities which 
made me feel that it is time for Americans to be going home." An 
annoying incident had just occurred in Bullard's Second Army area. 
The President of France had just reclaimed his country estate and 
found that American troops had cut dead trees on his land. M. Poin- 
care, who only a few months before had been pleading for American 
troops to save his country, not only demanded full compensation but 
complained so incessantly that the American division commander 
whose troops committed the outrage was relieved of his command to 
appease him. 

On November 21, Pershing attended a liberation ceremony at 
Longwy, recently evacuated by the Germans and now the III Corps 
Headquarters, and was wryly amused by the fact that an elderly French 
lady insisted on referring to her liberators as English. She "read off a 
most eulogistic document which she had written in honor of the Eng- 
lish and the English effort. . . , On termination of her speech she 
called on the crowd for cheers in honor of England. ... It added 
a little touch of humor to the situation which I should have hated to 

Whatever claims America had to having "saved the world for 
democracy" were supported more firmly by the late enemy. The evi- 
dence of the German High Command's bitter appreciation of the 
American effort was gathered, ironically enough, by five U.S. war 
correspondents who defied A.E.F. regulations to venture into Ger- 
many ahead of the Allied armies. Irked by the herding policies and 


hidebound censorship of the A.E.F. press section, the five newspaper- 
men commandeered two army Cadillacs, drove through Luxembourg, 
and crossed the German frontier on November 21. They headed for 
Cassel, Hindenburg's headquarters, passing long columns of retreat- 
ing German infantry and noting the "splendid discipline of the de- 

Field Marshal Hindenburg received them only after the local Work- 
ers and Soldiers Council leader insisted on it, an indication of how 
things were going in the defeated land. The German commander in 
chief was naturally disgruntled at taking orders from civilians, but he 
finally thawed out and told them what they wanted to hear. According 
to a transcript of the interview kept by George Seldes of the Marshall 
Syndicate, Hindenburg forthrightly stated: "The American infantry 
won the World War in battle in the Argonne." (Later the former Ger- 
man Chancellor, Prince Max of Baden, testified that an armistice be- 
came necessary because "the Americans were making progress at the 
pointviz., north of Verdun, where they must not be allowed to ad- 
vance if the Antwerp-Meuse line was to be held any longer.") 

The field marshal, according to Seldes, elaborated on how the war 
was decided in the Argonne as follows : 

"The Argonne battle was slow and difficult. But it was strategic. It 
was bitter and used up division after division. We had to hold the 
Metz-Longuyon roads and railroads and we had hoped to stop all 
American attacks until the entire army was out of northern France. 
We were passing through the neck of a vast bottle. But the neck was 
narrow. German and American divisions fought each other to a stand- 
still in the Argonne. They met and shattered each other's strength. The 
Americans are splendid soldiers. But when I replaced a division it was 
weak in numbers and unrested, while each American division came 
in fresh and fit and on the offensive. . . . 

"Without the American blow in the Argonne, we could have made 
a satisfactory peace at the end of a stalemate or at least held our 
positions on our frontier indefinitelyundefeated. The American at- 
tack decided the war." 

Despite the accolade they brought back from Hindenburg, Pershlng 
was outraged at the fact the correspondents had invaded Germany 
ahead of the Army of Occupation and ordered them taken into custody 
on their return. They were held for a court-martial and the judge ad- 
vocate on Pershing's staff announced that he would see to it that they 


spent six months in a military prison. Eventually they were cleared, 
partly through the intervention of Colonel House, and were allowed 
to return to their duties, convinced that Pershing was something of an 

Every day following the armistice the Paris edition of the Chicago 
Tribune published a banner line reading: GET THE BOYS HOME TOOT 
SWEET, a succinctly phrased echo of the sentiment back home. Ameri- 
cans wanted no further part in the endless European quarrel, were 
willing to sacrifice in war but not in peace, an unfortunate pattern 
that was to be repeated after another war. But no matter what the 
outcry at home, the A.E.F. had not finished its job: there was still 
the possibility that Germany, its armies defeated but still capable of 
resistance, would refuse to accept the peace terms and opt for a con- 
tinuance of the war. The A.E.F. would have to participate in the occu- 
pation of the Rhineland, from which it would withdraw in 1923, 
six years before the British and seven years before the French. In his 
general order to the A.E.F. immediately after the armistice, Pershing 
praised its gallantry in action but warned: 

"There remains now a harder task which will test your soldierly 
qualities to the utmost. Succeed in this and little note will be taken 
and few praises will be sung; fail, and the light of your glorious achieve- 
ments of the past will sadly be dimmed. . . . Every natural tendency 
may urge towards relaxation in discipline, in conduct, in appearance, 
in everything that marks the soldier. Yet you will remember that each 
officer and each soldier is the representative in Europe of his people. 
. . . Whether you stand on hostile territory or on the friendly soil of 
France, you will so bear yourself in discipline, in appearance and re- 
spect for all civil rights that you will confirm for all time the pride 
and love which every American feels for your uniform and for you." 

In mid-December, the Allied forces of occupation moved into the 
Rhineland to keep a watch on the enemy while a peace treaty was be- 
ing negotiated and to make sure there would be no resurgence of Ger- 
man militarism. The French had every intention of hanging onto their 
bridgeheads into Germany and making the German people pay for the 
excesses of their exiled and degraded former leaders. The Americans, 
and to a lesser degree the British, were naturally less inclined toward 
a spirit of vengeance. 

General Bullard felt that he had to warn his troops, in fact, that the 
German people "will occupy you if you don't occupy them." The 


American soldier was sternly warned against showing any friendly 
spirit to the conquered, but, as a newspaper correspondent observed, 
the non-fraternization order "only made John Doughboy keener than 
ever to fraternize." The German children, close to starvation, then the 
German women, rather easily broke down the barriers, although their 
menfolk tended to display a surly disposition at first. Correspondent 
Wilbur Forrest came across a story early in the occupation which illus- 
trated how fraternization extended quickly upward through the ranks 
of the American Army. An earnest young lieutenant complained to 
his two seniors, a colonel and a major, of the young Frdulein in the 
house where he was billeted who made his life miserable by bringing 
him breakfast in bed and otherwise showering him with her unwel- 
come attentions. Next day the colonel ordered the regiment's billeting 
officer to transfer him to the quarters vacated by the priggish young 
lieutenant. "Sorry, sir," he was told, "but the major engaged that billet 
early this morning." 

It was a matter of serious concern that many Americans soon 
showed that they not only bore the former enemy no hard feelings but 
succumbed to an admiration for the cleanliness of the German towns 
and the orderliness of their people, which encouraged them to forget 
all too quickly, from the viewpoint of their allies, that clean, orderly 
German soldiers had only recently been overrunning Europe from the 
Channel coast to the Ukraine. General Malin Craig, chief of staff of 
the newly formed Third Army assigned to occupation duty, wrote Per- 
shing's headquarters: "Both the French and British liaison officers 
have been quite outspoken in their opinions of the necessity of a drastic 
kind of rules and regulations having for their object what is practically 
reprisal on boche civilians. ... It is quite clear to me that both 
the French and British realize, unless we are forced to deal harshly 
with the inhabitants of the occupied territory and along the same lines 
which they expect to use, the German people will shortly favor the 
Americans and thus raise hell with the political end of the game." It 
developed that General Mangin, commanding the French Army of Oc- 
cupation at Mainz, was then trying to bring off a deal through which 
a Rhineland republic would be established. 

Pershing and his generals held themselves aloof from all such politi- 
cal ventures. They regarded themselves as policemen, and their sole 
concern was to maintain order in their areas of occupation and bring 
the troops home safely and as soon as possible. 


Late in 1919 the French tried to gain a foothold in the American 
bridgehead at Coblenz, where their agents were busy trying to rally 
support for the Separatist movement in the Rhineland, having been 
misled by overly optimistic estimates of the pro-French sympathy of 
the populace. Pershing reacted to this more or less clandestine activity 
in his zone by threatening to recommend the withdrawal of the Ameri- 
can occupation forces from the Rhine if Foch did not halt this infiltra- 

Between Pershing and Foch from then on there was only a frosty 
politeness. General Allen, commanding at Coblenz, in describing 
Foch's visit the following spring, remarked on the fact that the marshal, 
otherwise genial, turned grim and "expressed no desire to see Pershing 
when I told him" he might come this year, nor did he request to be 
remembered to him." 

Much of Pershing's time early in 1919 was spent in reviewing his 
divisions before they went home. Unlike his brisk trots through the 
ranks while the Army was preparing for battle, he was now more lei- 
surely and amiable. Perhaps he had decided to take a whirl at playing 
the father of the regiment a role in which he was not always con- 
spicuously successful. The troops' reception of his efforts was some- 
what colored by reports that their commander was being seriously 
considered as a candidate for the presidency in 1920, and the sus- 
picion that he might be trying to win their favor. 

He reviewed the 165th Infantry, which was largely Irish and prided 
itself on its former designation as the "Fighting 69th," on St. Patrick's 
Day in 1919. As he approached the ranks, he was heard to inquire 
loudly of a staff officer, "What regiment is this?" 

"The 165th Infantry, sir," the officer responded. 

"What regiment is this?" Pershing demanded again. 

"Oh ... the 69th New York, sir." 

"The 69th New York. I understand now." 

Down the line Pershing halted in front of an Irishman with three 
wound stripes on his sleeve and was less successful at repartee. 

"Well, my lad, and where did you get these?" Pershing asked, point- 
ing to the stripes. 

"From the supply sergeant, sir," the doughboy replied with a straight 

The late Charles MacArthur, future author of The Front Page and 
other plays, and one of the A.E.F.'s blither spirits, provided a comical 


but penetrating account of the impression Pershing made when he re- 
viewed the 149th Field Artillery on the plain near Remagen: 

"The General didn't come for two or three hours, and standing at 
attention became monotonous. The men began sneaking smokes and 
throwing their helmets at jack rabbits and more school kid stuff. . . . 
The hours passed. Someone commented on the wondrous authority 
that could hold 27,000 men hi one place for four hours. 

" 'That's all right/ interposed Charlie Jones. 'He's gonna wait longer 
than that for my vote for President.' Which restored our perspective 
a little. 

"The General came at last and cavorted through the ranks on 
horseback . . . dismounted and inspected the regiment, stopping here 
and there to ask questions. After coaching us up on our right names 
and the color of our eyes, some of the officers were horribly surprised 
when the General stopped hi front of them and asked sensible ques- 
tions, asking them what percentage of disease existed in their com- 
mands and other remarks denoting common sense. All the officers who 
had brushed up on expected subjects and were prepared to answer 
right off the bat that their name was Julius, got stage fright and were 
royally bawled out to our great enjoyment." 

General Dickman, now commanding the Third Army, observed that 
Pershing was still as concerned with the health of his men as when he 
had been a young troop commander. In reviewing a division, he would 
question every battalion commander on how many cases of prevent- 
able disease they had in their units. If they replied that they had only 
one case, he would snap, "One too many." When he found that some 
American troops were still encamped on the old Meuse-Argonne bat- 
tlefields and were prey to influenza and pneumonia, he exploded in 
rage and went off to have a personal talk with Foch, who was respon- 
sible for the situation, when the Allied commander hi chief did not 
move them fast enough. He tangled with Foch again when the general- 
issimo tried to put American troops to work as laborers clearing debris 
in the wrecked villages and on the old battlefields. He was almost as 
determined to bring the A.E.F. home in good health as he had been 
to break the Hindenburg Line. 

Aside from overseeing the occupation and the dismantling of the 
S.O.S. organization from the ports to the railheads behind the for- 
mer battle line, Pershing permitted himself to relax for the first time 
after almost two years of continuous campaigning from the Mexican 


border to the Argonne. Chaumont became the center of festivity in- 
stead of crisis, hospitable to visiting bigwigs up to and including Presi- 
dent Wilson when he came over for the peace conference. Nor did 
he shun the company of the beautiful women who motored up from 
Paris to pay tribute to the victorious soldier. As always, he became a 
different man in feminine society, a little old-fashioned in his gallantry 
perhaps, his manner reminiscent of the Old Army posts of the past 
century, often giving them the dimpled smile that his male associates 
rarely saw but which transformed his face amazingly. 

One of his occasional guests was the wealthy and attractive widow, 
Daisy Harriman, who had been so vigorous in defending him the 
previous summer when Parisian gossip had it that he would soon be 
packed off on the first ship home, and who was to be his friend for 
many years. Mrs. Harriman wrote in her diary for March 22, 1919, 
that Pershing had invited her to attend a divisional review and "the 
General and I came here to Nancy, where I am putting up in the Red 
Cross Hotel. It is a moonlight night and this beautiful city is a dream." 

Pershing also unbent on fairly frequent visits to the uninhibited 
Razzberry Club, established by the American war correspondents in 
the Riesen Furtenhof Hotel in Coblenz, whose only rule was "Rank 
must be left at the doormat." Correspondent Wilbur Forrest observed 
that Pershing never stood on ceremony and "I have watched the Com- 
mander in animated conversation with a high-browed, bespectacled 
Private who on the other side of our magic threshold would have 
stood at rigid attention." 

The greatest personal satisfaction of Pershing's last months of serv- 
ice in Europe came in April when Secretary of War Baker ordered 
that his ten-year-old son, Warren, be sent to his father's side. The AVar 
Department outfitted Warren in a uniform tailored to his size, deco- 
rated with a sergeant's stripes and with the Montenegro Medal and 
the Philippine War ribbon on his chest. His escort overseas was First 
Sergeant Joseph Weltz, a combat hero of the 17th Infantry. Once 
father and son were reunited, however, Warren was turned over to the 
personal custody of Sergeant Frank Lanckton, Pershing's striker for 
many years. Warren had been raised by his aunts in Lincoln, Nebraska, 
and apparently needed a touch of masculine discipline on occasion. 
Sergeant Lanckton knew how to handle him, as surviving members of 
Pershing's staff recall. Whenever the boy got out of line, Lanckton 
would threaten to take away his stripes. In extreme cases, Lanckton 


would snap, "Sergeant Pershing, go to your quarters!" and Warren 
would obey. 

Pershing did his best to bridge the gap of their years of separation 
and the even wider gulf between a boy of ten and a father who was 
approaching sixty. On all but official occasions they were inseparable, 
and Warren remembers that spring of 1919 as the "most wonderful 
experience of my early years." 

Once at a party at the Prince of Wied's castle at Neuwied in the 
occupied territory, Pershing slipped away from the ballroom just be- 
fore a phone call came from his headquarters. An officer was sent 
to find him. The general was finally located in his son's bedroom, 
where Warren was sleeping "under a German feather-tick three times 
as big as he." Pershing was merely sitting next to the bed and watching 
his son sleep. 

"I like to be with my boy," Pershing told the officer. "I have seen so 
little of him in the last few years that it seems as if we hardly know 
each other. I want to see all of him I can. I wouldn't feel right if I 
let the evening pass without spending part of it with my son, even if 
he is asleep." 

Pershing was particularly pleased when Mme. Joffre presented 
Warren with a boy-sized uniform of a marshal of France, with seven 
stars sewn on its sleeve. Warren, under the influence of the doughty 
Sergeant Lanckton, could not be convinced that a French marshal out- 
ranked an American three-striper and preferred the American uni- 
form. The boy was watching when Pershing led the American Pro- 
visional Regiment, with a blaze of regimental standards representing 
the whole A.E.F., under the Arch of Triumph in the Grand Parade 
celebrating the Allied victory on Bastille Day, July 14, 1919. Pershing 
made a superb picture on horseback, managing his mount like an old 
cavalryman, but equally impressive were the two marshals of France, 
Joffre and Foch, marching on foot with their batons in hand. Later 
that month Pershing and the picked regiment marched hi the Victory 
Parade in London. The British were unstinting with their honors, and 
Pershing was the guest of honor at a royal garden party, had luncheon 
at Buckingham Palace, was made an Honorary Freeman of the City, 
sat in a box at the theater with the Prince of Wales, and was honored 
at a dinner given by Field Marshal Haig, with such luminaries as 
Home, Birdwood, Currie, Monash, and others present. Next day he 
was given the Freedom of the City of London and a Sword of Honor. 


No other nation does this sort of thing with more graceful ceremony 
than the British, but General Harbord, who accompanied him, noted 
that Pershing was not particularly thrilled by all the attention. At a 
Savoy reception Pershing complained that too much classical music 
was being played and asked for "some American jazz and ragtime," 
with the result that the proceedings were enlivened by renditions of 
K-K-Katy, The Alcoholic Blues, and We Don't Want the Bacon, All 
We Want Is a Piece of the Rhine. The general, it appeared, was suffer- 
ing from a touch of homesickness. 

Two more months of pomp and ceremony, and the orders finally 
came for Pershing to sail for New York, where he would lead the 
parade of the First Division "the best damn outfit in the army," he 
called it down Fifth Avenue. 

On September 8, 1919, he embarked on the Leviathan with Warren 
and an official party including his new aide-de-camp, Colonel George 
C. Marshall. The peace treaty had been signed, although the United 
States Senate would balk at its provisions and necessitate a sepa- 
rate agreement between Germany and the United States which was 
not ratified until two years later. But the war indubitably was over; 
the Germans would not march for another generation. The world was 
temporarily safe for democracy, though curious were some of the forms 
it took. The Russian and German monarchies had fallen, one leaving 
the vortex of communism, the other a vacuum to be filled by a brutal 
dictatorship; the Austro-Hungarian and Turkish empires had col- 
lapsed; France and Britain were immeasurably weakened. Amid gen- 
eral ruin, the United States emerged as a world power. This would not 
have happened had Pershing not managed, through a calculated in- 
transigence, to preserve the integrity of the American Expeditionary 

One morning while the Leviathan was in mid-ocean Warren Per- 
shing was given a message for his father in the ship's wireless room. 
He ran into his father's stateroom and awakened him by jumping on 
the bed, then handed him the message. It was a cable from Baker an- 
nouncing that Congress had voted him the rank of General of the 
Armies the first since Washington, when the "armies" amounted to 
less than a modern division. No officer since Pershing has been given 
that rank, and perhaps, if the world is luckier, than seems possible 
and a third intercontinental war is averted, no one ever will. 



16. Chief of Staff 

A good soldier is never forgot, 
Whether he die by musket or by the pot. 


Pershing was returning to American shores virtually a stranger. For 
almost twenty years he had spent most of his time abroad, in Manchu- 
ria and the Philippines, below the Mexican border and in France. 
Before that he had lived outside the mainstream of American life as 
a soldier on the western frontier. In his mind the United States would 
always be the expanding, questing nation of his youth, a somewhat 
rustic America, which it no longer was. 

Even since the spring of 1917, when he left with the nucleus of the 
A.E.F., there had been tremendous changes in American life. Half 
frontier in his youth, the nation was being industrialized, mechanized, 
urbanized, and some said feminized at a bounding pace. Automobiles 
had taken over the roads and were beginning to produce social and 
economic effects of incalculable force. The labor unions were growing 
stronger, and men who had been able to afford striped silk shirts on 
war-time wages would never again be satisfied with the twelve-hour 
day and bare subsistence pay. Women got the vote and men lost the 
drink through two new amendments to the Constitution. 

Whatever hopes anyone had for an ideal agrarian republic that 
stayed home and minded its own business had finally been destroyed 
by the intervention in the European war. There was a temporary re- 
treat into isolationism when the Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of 


Versailles or enter the League of Nations, but the United States, 
through its only partly conscious venture into ancient European feuds, 
had irrevocably committed itself to the responsibility of a world power. 

A new kind of America was being born, in which Pershing and his 
generation, remembering rail fences, stagecoaches, and Indian upris- 
ings, would never feel entirely at home. Nor would they ever be com- 
pletely reconciled to the changes that kept cropping up around them 
the demand for ease and comfort, the craze for speed, the search for 
easy money, the yahoo acceptance of slogans, the bare-kneed freedom 
of the young women the end, in fact, of what had been a man's world. 

Yet this stranger, this returning soldier whose closest connection 
with politics had been his relationship by marriage to a prominent 
Republican senator, was being proposed as a candidate for Presi- 
dent of the United States. The "Pershing boom" had been under way 
for some months before he embarked for the United States. There is 
no evidence that he encouraged it in any way; on the other hand, he 
was not quite so explicit as General Sherman in rejecting all possi- 
bility of accepting the nomination if offered. Less than a month after 
the armistice, on December 3, 1918, Dawes was writing in his diary 
that Pershing was "very much annoyed by the newspaper talk about 
him as a candidate for the Presidency and was contemplating a state- 
ment about it, strongly denouncing such gossip. ... I advised him 
it was not worthy of notice at least at present." The Republicans, 
having no outstanding candidate, claimed him for their own, although 
Pershing had never indicated any preference, as befitted a professional 

Despite a discouraging silence from the general, Republican politi- 
cians and newspapers clamored for his candidacy. They did not reckon 
with the general aversion to war or anything that smacked of the mili- 
tary. America had become disillusioned; the war had been a fever in 
the blood only until the casualty lists started clicking out, until Ameri- 
cans were convinced that their "crusade" in Europe was being viewed 
less idealistically by their allies. Over There was no longer a song hit. 
Few people were really enthusiastic about transferring Pershing, or any 
other general, from his military headquarters to the White House. 

Leslie's Weekly assigned a former Stars & Stripes writer, Charles 
Phelps Gushing, to investigate the potentialities of the Pershing boom. 
"A good many of us," he wrote, "have a shrewd suspicion that many 
politicians went to France in the army of joy riders that poured over- 


seas after the signing of the Armistice; and that these politicians care- 
fully sounded out the A.E.F. on the possibilities of Pershing for Presi- 
dent. We also have a suspicion that they returned with a report 
that most of the two million overseas would vote 'NO!' on such a 
proposition even on a proposition to put any soldier in the White 
House. . . . 

"Did Pershing lose the opportunity to become a candidate for the 
highest office in America because he deliberately made himself in 
France 'something of a machine'? It is possible. Many have a feeling 
that back of his somewhat forbidding front he was not so cold and 
colorless a personality as he appeared on inspection tours. Perhaps 
this was simply his West Pointer's notion of the best way to get a big 
job done. If so," he is paying the penalty of impersonal efficiency by 
returning richer in respect than in affection." 

Men in the ranks pictured him, Gushing said, as "a businessman 
with offices in an old barracks, with a town house and a country house 
like a banker and a garage full of expensive motor cars." He "some- 
how failed to belong, as some of the other generals did," among whom 
Gushing cited Liggett, Harbord, and Dickman. "Perhaps he held him- 
self aloof from attempting to catch his men's fancy; perhaps he did 
not know how." 

The movement to make Pershing a candidate for President at the 
1920 Republican National Convention never really got off the ground. 
Nor did he ever give any public indication whether he would accept 
any bid from the party managers, although some of his friends sus- 
pected that he could have been drafted if there had been an over- 
whelming desire for his candidacy. On June 8, 1920, when the 
convention was deadlocked, he was quoted as saying "no patriotic 
American could decline" the presidency. Newspapers reported that he 
awaited a summons from the party heads in Chicago but it never 

When the cigar smoke around the Republican bosses finally 
cleared, the laurel had been deposited on the deceptively noble brow 
of Warren G. Harding, the senator from Ohio. Pershing lacked the 
flexibility and political instinct to have made an outstanding President, 
but it may be taken for granted that he would never have been manip- 
ulated as Harding was, and that while his Administration might have 
been undistinguished, at least it would not have been disfigured by a 
Teapot Dome scandal and other criminal follies. 


He was given a wholehearted welcome, at any rate, when the 
Leviathan docked at New York on September 9, 1919. All the ships 
in New York Harbor blew their whistles and sounded their sirens as 
the liner came up the bay to dock at Pier Four in Hoboken. Secretary 
of War Baker and Chief of Staff March, along with many members 
of the A.E.F. staff who had preceded him home, came aboard to 
greet him. Even General March was cordial. Since the end of the war, 
Pershing's relations with him had naturally taken a turn for the better, 
with the removal of wartime tensions and differences. Sixteen days 
after the armistice, Pershing had taken the conciliatory step of writing 
March a letter beginning, "I wish I had the time and paper to tell you 
in a letter all of the details that we have waded through in achieving 
the organization of our army and righting it as such. Without this very 
gratifying outcome, America's part in the war would have been swal- 
lowed up in the accomplishment of our allies, and the credit due us 
would not have come to us. ... I realize that your own duties are 
also troublesome and that you have had a pretty hard row to 
hoe. . . ." 

Pershing and his party were showered with ticker tape in a tri- 
umphal procession up Broadway from the Battery to City Hall, where 
Governor Alfred E. Smith and Mayor John F. Hylan waited to receive 
him on the steps. He went to the Waldorf-Astoria for a reunion with 
his sisters, Mrs. Bessie Butler and Miss May Pershing, and the follow- 
ing night attended a program in his honor at the Hippodrome, where 
a display of electric lights spelled out "Happy Days to General Per- 
shing." On September 10 he led the First Division down Fifth Avenue 
from 110th Street. He was mounted on a charger; the First Division, 
as usual, made the journey on foot. The cheers rose to a crescendo 
when he dismounted in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral to shake hands 
with the heroic Cardinal Mercier of Belgium. 

Months of ceremony and public display were to follow, but first 
Pershing took time out for a month's vacation. The first half of it was 
spent at the Wood's Hole, Massachusetts, estate of Cameron Forbes, 
the former governor general of the Philippines under whom he had 
served. A large house party had gathered there. One of the games they 
played, on horseback, was Pirates and Cruisers, a sort of hide-and- 
seek in the saddle. Pershing was a Pirate, and the ladies of the party 
insisted on vying for the privilege of capturing him. The general was 
not visibly displeased at losing the game after a chase through the 


woods. Later he was the guest of the father-in-law of his operations 
officer, General Fox Conner, at Brandeth Lake, in the Adirondacks, 
where he spent most of his time hiking and deer hunting. 

For the best part of a year, with Colonel Marshall trotting in his 
wake as aide-de-camp, Pershing fulfilled a ceremonial role, an army 
commander without an army. It was a year of train rides, public re- 
ceptions, inspection tours, civic dinners. During that period Pershing 
at least learned to unbend somewhat, to show the gracious side of his 
character (hitherto visible only to his friends and closer associates), 
and even to smile for the newspaper cameras if given sufficient warn- 
ing. Out of friendship for his aide, Pershing visited Marshall's old 
school, the Virginia Military Institute, and spent two days there watch- 
ing the cadets parade in review for the alumni. He even made the state- 
ment, astounding for a West Pointer, that he had heard V.M.I, re- 
ferred to as "the West Point of the South" but after watching its cadets 
on the parade ground he wondered why West Point was not called "the 
V.M.I, of the North." 

On his coast-to-coast tour shortly after that, he visited Hollywood 
and incidentally gave one of its future leading lights his first boost up 
the ladder of the motion-picture industry. Pershing toured the Gold- 
wyn Studios in Culver City, where all former servicemen were drawn 
up in uniform for his inspection. One of these was William A. Well- 
man, a former combat aviator with the Lafayette Flying Corps, now 
a twenty-three-year-old office boy, who had met Pershing on a social 
occasion in France. The general, recalling that they had met, halted 
in front of Wellman and whispered, "Is there anything I can do for 
you?" "Yes, sir," said the quick-witted Wellman. "You'd really make 
me look good after this thing is over if you'd talk to me a few minutes 
under that fig tree over there." Pershing nodded and continued his 
inspection. After the review was over, Pershing cut short his conver- 
sation with several studio executives to march over to where Well- 
man was waiting under the fig tree. They talked together for twenty 
minutes, to the amazement of Wellman's superiors. Next day they pro- 
moted the young man to be an assistant director, and Wellman even- 
tually became one of Hollywood's top directors. Wellman has always 
credited his rise to fame and fortune to that talk under the fig tree. 

In the spring of 1920, after school was out, Pershing picked up his 
son and took him along on his considerable travels. They journeyed 
to Panama, where Warren was instructed by his father in the art of 


tarpon fishing, then on a brief trip to Europe during which Pershing, 
apparently forgetting that his son was then struggling with long divi- 
sion in school, attempted to explain the fundamentals of physics and 
mathematics. They were on the move all that summer and drew closer 
together than they had ever been. Late in the summer they went out 
west, and on the train ride to Denver, Pershing noted in his diary, he 
"gave Warren a lesson in spelling and read to him The Legend of the 
Moors' Legacy." After visiting the Warren family's home in Cheyenne, 
they spent a week in the Rockies, fishing and riding on Senator Phipps's 
ranch at Wagon Wheel Gap. They wound up the summer in Lincoln, 
at Pershing's sisters' home, where Warren was left behind to continue 
his schooling. 

On his way back to Washington, Pershing stopped off at Marion, 
Ohio, to call on Senator Harding and shake a thousand hands at a 
reception for the man who was shortly to be elected President. He 
may have been informed on that occasion that he would be appointed 
chief of staff, succeeding General March. If so, it must have been wel- 
come news. For a man who had worked at top speed all his life, the 
interval between his arrival in the United States and his assumption 
of that post must have been irksome and meaningless. He spent much 
of his time commuting between Washington and New York, where he 
usually saw his younger brother Jim, a happy-go-lucky fellow who had 
spent most of his life on the road as a clothing salesman and now 
operated his own firm. Jim Pershing was living at Forest Hills Gardens 
and often advised him on stock-market investments. At least Pershing 
would never have to worry too much about money, Congress having 
recently voted him a full general's pay for the rest of his life, through 
the endeavors of Secretary of War Baker. 

Social activities filled most of his days in the fall and winter; he 
was the prize captive of New York and Washington hostesses, and 
more than one army widow a type in which Washington abounded, 
as Pershing observed several times in his diary conceived hopes of 
becoming the second Mrs. Pershing. At sixty he was still a fine figure 
of manhood, and he proposed to stay that way. Almost every day he 
went to the Frances Fox Institute for scalp treatments, and having his 
share of vanity about hair, teeth, eyes, and a prepossessing physique 
he managed to preserve the appearance of a much younger man for 
many years. For the next decade, rumors of his intended remarriage 
were to buzz constantly around the upper echelon of Washington so- 


ciety. They were helped along, perhaps, by the fact that Pershing 
rented the Chevy Chase residence of General Corbin's widow, which 
was known in capital society as "the Irish legation" and seemed to be 
roomier than a man set on remaining a widower would require. 

Pershing took over as chief of staff, to the intense disappointment 
of General March, who would have liked to stay in that office. The 
Army then was undergoing a peacetime crisis. Before Congress and in 
the War Department a highly vocal war was being waged. The issue 
at stake was what kind of Army the United States would build for the 
future a controversy toward which the public displayed a yawning in- 
difference. Many General Staff officers, March among them, wanted 
a standing army of thoroughgoing professionals. Pershing and his allies 
wanted something vastly different, a broadly based "national army" 
resting on a foundation of universal military training. 

By the time Pershing assumed direction of the General Staff, the 
dispute had been going strong for two years. Just after the armistice 
he was invited to send a General Staff officer to represent the A.E.F. 
in the formulation of a permanent military system. Pershing chose Gen- 
eral John McAuley Palmer, who had been commanding a brigade in 
the 29th Division, to participate in the discussions. Eventually Palmer 
was charged with framing legislation which would define and provide 
the structure for a modern military establishment. 

Pershing and Palmer believed that the citizen army created in the 
world war should be "perpetuated as a permanent national institu- 
tion," that it should be a "democratic army" with both Regular Army 
and civilian components which could be rapidly expanded in the event 
of war. On his arrival in Washington, however, Palmer found that 
plans had already been formulated for a standing army of half a mil- 
lion, with "military leadership to be the monopoly of the professional 
soldier," as Palmer wrote. "At the close of a war against German 
militarism we were to have a militaristic system in the United States." 
Such a bill, Palmer rightly believed, was "foredoomed." 

The National Defense Act of 1920, when it was finally drafted, 
represented what Pershing believed would be a workable and efficient 
compromise. Universal military training, like a large standing army, 
was "foredoomed" by the prevailing sentiment against anything mili- 
tary. The measure, however, provided for an army of 280,000 enlisted 
men, enough to organize nine infantry divisions and nine corps areas, 
under which regular officers and noncoms would train National 


Guard, Reserve Officers Training Corps, and Citizens Military Train- 
ing Camp units. 

Despite Pershing's vigorous protests, Congress ordered another 
army cutback in 1922, this time to 125,000 men. The training centers 
attached to corps areas had to be abandoned and their personnel re- 
turned to Regular Army duties. Disillusioned by the interplay of power 
politics and national interests at Versailles, already cynical over the 
war that was to "end war/' the United States decided that the best 
kind of army was the smallest and least visible. War, it was generally 
held, could be stopped by doing away with armies and navies and their 
weapons. Laurence Stallings's What Price Glory? became the theatri- 
cal hit of the decade; college boys whose older brothers had rushed 
to the colors in 1917 joined pacifist movements or "The Veterans of 
Future Wars," and soon enough American intellectuals were pro- 
claiming that if all generals could be shelved and all munitions makers 
could be run out of business there would be no more war. 

Meanwhile, Pershing and his staff were pondering the lessons of 
American participation in the world war and concluding that the 
A.E.F.'s performance, on the whole, had been brave and enthusiastic, 
but lacking in skill. In a later war, the American Army might not have 
time to organize behind a shield held up by its allies or confront a 
decimated and outnumbered enemy. Pershing assigned Colonel Mar- 
shall to compile records on the performances of the various American 
divisions in France, and undoubtedly Marshall's conclusions, some 
of which were summarized in an article in the Infantry Journal, re- 
flected Pershing's opinions: 

"The Americans who fought only at St. Mihiel and in the Meuse- 
Argonne probably will never realize the vast difference between their 
enemy then and the German of April or May. Even those who fought 
in the summer of 1918 will have some difficulty in visualizing the state 
of mind of troops who are opposed by an enemy far superior in num- 
bers and confident of his ability to defeat them. For this reason it is 
possible that officers who participated only in the last phase of the 
war may draw somewhat erroneous conclusions from their battle 

"Many mistakes were made in the Argonne which the Germans at 
that time were unable to charge to our account. The same mistakes, 
repeated four months earlier in the war, would have brought an im- 
mediate and unfortunate reaction. It is possible that methods success- 


fully employed in the Meuse-Argonne would have invited a successful 
enemy counter-attack in the spring of 1918. 

"It is not intended by this discussion to belittle our efforts in the 
latter part of the war, for what we actually accomplished was a military 
miracle, but we must not forget that its conception was based on a 
knowledge of the approaching deterioration of the German Army, and 
its lesson must be studied accordingly. We remain "without modern ex- 
perience in the first phases of a war and must draw our conclusions 
from history." 

Next time, if there was a next time, America might not be allowed 
the time to mobilize men and resources, might not go up against a 
half-defeated enemy. American luck would not hold forever. In total 
war, preparations had to be made years in advance. A modem army 
could not be created in a matter of months. 

These thoughts, along with the conviction that the United States had 
bulled its way to a victory in Lorraine under circumstances that would 
never repeat themselves, that in a sense the American Army had been 
almost too lucky and its successes had lulled the people into a foolish 
belief in American superiority, spurred Pershing's efforts from then 
until the end of his life toward establishing the Army on an unshaka- 
ble foundation. Much as he hated public speaking, he was willing to 
spread the gospel of a democratic army, with so much of the popula- 
tion involved in it even for a year or two of ROTC or National Guard 
training that it would be a part of their life. He wanted Americans to 
be aware of the kind of world they were living in, as he saw it, a 
world which technology was making both more comfortable and more 
dangerous every day. By the end of his term as chief of staff, however, 
he knew that this effort was also "foredoomed." Only nations with 
aggressive intentions, bent on vengeance or expansion, are willing to 
prepare adequately for war in time of peace. 

With all his prestige, Pershing could not persuade the gentlemen on 
Capitol Hill that "economizing" further on the military budget would 
reduce the Army to a creaking skeleton. The agonies of false economy 
would have to be suffered by the next generation. Just after he retired 
in 1924, he wrote Marshall, then serving in China with the 15th In- 
fantry: "I find on my return here that the War Department seems to 
be up against the real thing. The Budget Officer insists on reducing our 
estimates so that we shall not be able to have over 110,000 men. Just 
what this means I cannot understand. I do not know what is going to 


be done about it, but to my mind it is very discouraging." In 1940, 
Marshall quoted that letter when, as chief of staff himself, he ad- 
dressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention and cited it as evi- 
dence that nothing had changed. 

In other matters, particularly the growth of air power, Pershing 
proved much less farsighted. Astigmatic might be a better word for his 
vision regarding the future of military aircraft, whose most vociferous 
apostle was Billy Mitchell. Pershing had an instinctive distrust of the 
more flamboyant types like Mitchell and MacArthur; perhaps he en- 
vied their flair for influencing people, their stage presence, their court- 
ing of popularity; but whatever aroused his dislike he definitely wasn't 
going to put up with officers who wouldn't stay in line. Mitchell's 
prophecies of the future strategic value of air power struck no sym- 
pathetic chord in Pershing. "No airplane," he said more than once, 
"has ever affected the course of a battle." 

Only once had Pershing been willing to go along with one of 
Mitchell's imaginative schemes for the employment of air power, and 
that was during the mid-October days when the First Army was 
bogged down in the depths of the Argonne. In what must have been 
a moment of weakness, Pershing listened receptively to Mitchell's 
plans for a paratroop division which could take the German defenses 
from the rear. Mitchell wrote in his diary for October 17, 1918, that 
he had just proposed to Pershing that "in the spring of 1919, when I 
should have a great force of bombardment airplanes, he assign one 
of the infantry divisions permanently to the Air Service . . . that we 
arm the men with a great number of machine guns and train them 
to go over the front in our large airplanes which would carry ten or 
fifteen of these soldiers. We could equip each man with a parachute, 
so that when we desired to make a rear attack on the enemy, we could 
carry these men over the lines and drop them off in parachutes behind 
the German position. . . . Our low-flying attack aviation would then 
cover every road in their vicinity, both day and night, so as to prevent 
the Germans falling on them quickly until they could thoroughly or- 
ganize the position." Pershing approved of the plan, but the war ended 
before it could be carried out. 

When it came to sharing the War Department's meager budget with 
the infant Air Corps, however, Pershing was less willing to listen to 
Mitchell's visionary proposals. If the Army was to be skeletonized, the 


organization of the ground forces had to be maintained above all, and 
air power would have to be developed along more modest lines. 

Pershing was almost as skeptical as any old-line battleship admiral 
when the Air Corps, under Mitchell's supervision, began demonstrat- 
ing the superiority of the plane over the battleship by bombing and 
sinking old German warships off Old Point Comfort, Virginia, in de- 
fiance of the naval mossbacks' dictum that "you can't hit a ship from 
the air, and if you hit her, you can't sink her." Pershing was one of a 
large group of high-ranking army and navy officers who watched the 
Air Corps demonstrations during July 1921. Mitchell and his disciples 
thought they proved their point when they finally managed to sink the 
27,000-ton "unsinkable" German dreadnought Ostjriesland, a sur- 
vivor of the Battle of Jutland. The sinking, said one admiral, "her- 
alded the birth of a new weapon which menaces the old army quite 
as much as the old navy." This point, too, must have struck Pershing 

Exhilarated by its obvious successes off the Virginia capes, the Air 
Corps was stunned by the report of the joint army and navy board, 
signed by General Pershing, which acknowledged that aircraft could 
sink or damage "any naval vessel at present constructed" but con- 
cluded that "the battleship is still the backbone of the fleet and the 
bulwark of the nation's sea defense." 

Mitchell continued his crusade all the more vigorously after that 
report was made public. General Menoher, former commander of the 
42nd Division, then chief of the Air Service, resigned on September 
21, 1921, when the Secretary of War refused to support him in de- 
manding that Mitchell be disciplinedthat is, muzzled. Pershing's 
sympathies, it may be inferred, were all with General Menoher. Cer- 
tainly they were not inclined toward Mitchell when he faced a general 
court-martial several years later, after Pershing's retirement as chief of 

Much as he hated to attract the attention of Washington's busy 
gossip mills, Pershing also became unwillingly involved in the private 
and professional affairs of General Douglas MacArthur during this 
period. In 1922, MacArthur was in the third year of his service as 
superintendent of West Point; he was still a bachelor at the age of 
forty-two, but had fallen in love with the beautiful Mrs. Louise Crom- 
well Brooks, a twenty-six-year-old divorcee who had decorated New 
York, Washington, and wartime Paris society since girlhood. She was 


the daughter of Mrs. Edward Stotesbury, who had long dominated 
Philadelphia society, and the stepdaughter of a banker whose fortune 
was said to total $150,000,000. Mrs. Brooks and her brother, Jimmy 
Cromwell, later the first husband of Doris Duke, met Pershing during 
the war and were occasional guests of his at the Ogden Mills mansion 
in Paris. 

Despite the buzzing in capital society that Pershing and the wealthy 
divorcee were "unofficially engaged," Mrs. Brooks announced her en- 
gagement to General MacArthur on January 14, 1922. The gossips 
also had it, as a matter of fact, that Mrs. Brooks was being courted 
by Colonel Quekemeyer, one of Pershing's aides. 

The vivacious Mrs. Brooks, according to two of MacArthur's biog- 
raphers (Clark Lee and Robert Henschel), told Pershing of her de- 
cision to marry MacArthur, whom she had recently met at a West Point 
ball, at a large dinner party. Pershing's only comment was: "Young 
lady, you'd better watch out or you'll find yourself in the Philippines." 

Three months after the wedding, MacArthur was assigned to a tour 
of duty in the Philippines and both his and his new wife's friends 
circulated the charge that he was being "exiled." MacArthur, aside 
from any possible affront to the chief of staff, stood No. 1 on the list 
of generals scheduled for foreign service. 

Mrs. MacArthur was quoted, according to biographers Lee and 
Henschel, as saying that "Jack wanted me to marry him. When I 
wouldn't, he wanted me to marry one of his colonels. I wouldn't do 
thatso here I am packing my trunks." If her version was correct, it 
was something new in the history of romance: a rejected suitor who 
nimbly proposed a replacement. 

The gossip grew so rancorous that Pershing finally consented to an 
interview on the subject. 

A member of the New York Times Washington bureau reported 
that Pershing was asked whether there was any truth in the rumor that 
MacArthur was being "exiled" to the Philippines and that he had been 
an "unsuccessful suitor for the hand of Mrs. Cromwell Brooks." Per- 
shing's reply was equally forthright and underlined with the contempt 
he felt for the gossip which had attended almost every phase of his 
career: "There is no ground for that story. It is all damn poppycock, 
without the slightest foundation and based on the idlest gossip. If I 
were married to all the ladies to whom gossips have engaged me, I 
would be a regular Brigham Young. 


"General MacArthur is being ordered to the Philippines because he 
stands at the top of the list of officers due for foreign service. He has 
been due for such service, as a matter of fact, for over a year. 

"I do not know whether General MacArthur has any intention of 
resigning from the army. I haven't the slightest intimation to that ef- 
fect from him. But I can say that I do not believe that General Mac- 
Arthur would resign from the service merely because he was about to 
be ordered to a foreign post. I know General MacArthur well. He is 
one of the most splendid types of soldier I have ever met. All this stuff 
is idle nonsense." 

As it turned out, Mrs. MacArthur found Manila society incredibly 
provincial and boring after the excitement of wartime Paris. She even 
served as a part-time policewoman to pass the time. MacArthur, un- 
like Pershing, refused to dance. Six years later the MacArthurs were 
divorced, with a parting shot from the lady, "Sir Galahad carried on 
his courtship as if he were reviewing a division of troops." 

If all that the ladies said about Pershing was true, he was leading 
a rather ardent romantic life for a man in his early sixties. He was not 
a man to confide such matters to his diary, yet here and there may be 
found a hint of his extra-military activities. During the early months 
of his service in France, for instance, there were entries indicating that 
he was posing frequently, for such a busy man, in the studio of a young 
portrait painter named Micheline Resco. A charming and highly tal- 
ented young woman, Mile. Resco produced a number of sketches and 
portraits of the general. One served as the frontispiece for his memoirs 
in both the French and American editions, another hangs in the Mu- 
seum of the Army in Paris, another in the New York headquarters of 
the Military Order of the World War. She also executed the official 
portraits of Marshal Foch, General Fayolle, Admiral Sims, and other 
Allied leaders. 

Mile. Resco often saw Pershing in the years after the war when she 
visited New York and Washington. 

Several months after the MacArthur affair blew over, on July 27, 
1922, Pershing wrote in his diary of receiving a "visit from my sister 
and Mile. Resco," indicating his family approved of the young French- 
woman. Whatever the extent of their relationship, Mile. Resco never 
married and was his faithful friend to the end of his life, never more 
so than during the dreary days of his final hospitalization. 

In 1952, four years after his death, the French weekly Samedi Soir 


published a three-column article based on the recollections of an "in- 
timate friend" of Mile. Resco, who was still living in the studio apart- 
ment on the Rue des Renaudes where Pershing had posed for her. 
"During Thirty Years," the article was headed, "a Frenchwoman 
Played 'Back Street' for Pershing." According to the "intimate friend," 
Pershing and the young artist fell in love but hesitated to marry because 
of the difference in their ages. She kept her friendship with the general 
out of the limelight, she was quoted as saying, because "I don't want 
to risk tarnishing his reputation at any price. People would not under- 
stand. And then, he has his son. . . ." Pershing himself "considered 
that her sacrifice was far greater than any he would undergo in 
affronting public opinion" because of the almost forty-year difference 
in their ages. 

Feminine companionship was always a necessity to him. "He loved 
the society of women," as General Bullard wrote. "That, too, like 
other early characteristics, seems to have held with him." Otherwise, 
austerity governed his later years; he soon gave up the Chevy Chase 
residence for an apartment at 2029 Connecticut Avenue, where his 
father-in-law also stayed, later took up even less pretentious quarters 
at the Metropolitan Club and the Carlton Hotel. 

By coincidence he was present during the last tragic scene of Presi- 
dent Harding's life. The President had taken a trip to Alaska just as 
the corruption of various members of his Administration was to be 
made public, particularly the connection between Secretary of the In- 
terior Albert B. Fall and the Teapot Dome oil leases. Harding died 
very suddenly and perhaps fortuitously in San Francisco, causing ru- 
mors to spread immediately that he had been poisoned, either by 
himself or someone else. Pershing had been inspecting IX Corps 
Headquarters at the Presidio on August 2, 1923, and was at dinner 
that evening when he was notified of the President's death. He hurried 
over to the Harding suite at the Palace Hotel and found "everyone 
unstrung." General Sawyer and Dr. Wilbur, the President's physicians, 
apparently were unable to agree on the cause of death. "The latter 
[Wilbur] insisted that the cause was plainly arterial schlerosis and that 
all other symptoms were merely incidental," Pershing wrote in his 
diary later that night. "General Sawyer did not appear very willing to 
accept this diagnosis, but Wilbur was most plainspoken in his opin- 
ion." At Mrs. Harding's request he accompanied the funeral train to 


On September 13, 1924, Pershing reached his sixty-fourth birthday 
and "the last day of my active service in the Army." The occasion may 
have been charged with emotion; certainly it was for other people- 
members of his staff, old comrades, admirers from civilian life. If Per- 
shing himself was moved by his retkement, and he must have been 
since the last day of any man's working life has something funereal 
about it, he managed to conceal it admirably. "Spent the day in my 
office, where I received a constant stream of callers, who came in to 
extend greetings and good wishes," was the only comment in his diary. 
A week earlier he had accompanied his son to New York and had 
seen him off on the Leviathan. The self-possessed Warren Pershing 
was making his first trip to Europe alone. "He was quite lively during 
the day until just before the boat sailed," the father noted, "when I 
think he began to feel a little solemn." The boy cheered up when the 
liner's captain informed him that he would be seated at a table with 
Jackie Coogan, the film star. 

Within a few weeks after his retirement, time began to hang heavily 
on his hands and he suddenly decided to join Warren in Europe, where 
they toured France and Switzerland together. 

Shortly after his return to the United States, the government found 
more work for him to do. Technically he would be on duty to the day 
of his death, as General of the Armies, and therefore he was available 
for any assignment the President or the War Department might choose 
to give him. Until he was too old and ill, he continued to supervise 
the work of the American Battle Monuments Commission in France, 
on which both Marshall and Eisenhower served at various times. He 
also had to be available for appearances at West Point, various army 
functions, and ceremonies for distinguished visitors. His role in "re- 
tirement" was to build and uphold the prestige of the Army an almost 
hopeless task in the twenties and thirties. 

This time his assignment was more than ornamental. President Coo- 
lidge summoned him to the White House to offer him the chairmanship 
of the commission which was charged with settling the Tacna-Arica 
dispute in which Peru and Chile, and to a lesser extent Bolivia, had long 
been embroiled. Pershing eagerly accepted the assignment on March 
23, 1925. He would have been less willing, perhaps, had he realized 
the thorniness of the problem he was called upon to arbitrate and the 
touchiness of the Latin temperaments he was supposed to reconcile. 

The dispute over the province of Tacna-Arica had been going on 


since 1879, when Chile declared war on Peru and Bolivia after nitrate 
was found in that forlorn, 500-mile strip of coast. Chile, having de- 
feated the two allies, was ceded the province and its port of Arica in 
1883, with the agreement that a plebiscite would be held within ten 
years to determine whether it would remain under Chilean rule or be 
returned to Peru. The plebiscite was never held, and ever since then 
there had been the threat of another war over ownership of the Prov- 
ince. Freshly conscious of its role as big brother to Latin America, 
the United States was exercising all diplomatic means of arriving at a 
settlement; the plebiscite must finally be held and enforced, President 
Coolidge and Secretary of State Frank Kellogg decided, and perhaps 
a man of the military prestige of General Pershing could persuade the 
adversariesparticularly Chile to settle their differences at the voting 

On August 2, 1925, Pershing arrived at the port of Arica aboard 
the U.S.S. Rochester, on which he was quartered during most of the 
six months of negotiation that followed. Among the members of his 
official party were his aide, Colonel Quekemeyer, and Ralph A. Cur- 
tin, his secretary, who had served at A.E.F. Headquarters and re- 
turned a lieutenant. Pershing wrote of his arrival, "The band murdered 
'The Star-Spangled Banner' horribly and continued to mangle the re- 
mains until I dropped my hand from the salute and the Chilean general 
waved them to stop." 

Right from the beginning of his mission, Pershing saw that "it would 
take a Solomon to render a just judgment" because "both sides see 
things through a cloud of intense hatred." 

In that sweltering port on the nitrate coast, surrounded by desert 
plateaus and jagged mountains, Pershing spent month after month lis- 
tening to the recriminations of the Chilean and Peruvian delegates. 
The Peruvians charged their people were being persecuted by the 
Chilean carbineers who policed the province. The Chileans claimed 
that Peru was sending hordes of settlers in, under American protec- 
tion, to outvote the Chilean colonists at the plebiscite. Under the cir- 
cumstances, the Chileans announced, they wouldn't participate in the 
plebiscite or recognize its results. 

One of Pershing's first measures was to send to the Panama Canal 
Zone for twenty Spanish-speaking Americans to "be sent out to the 
several districts with specific instructions to study conditions" and later 
to "serve on registration and election boards." 


Within two weeks of his arrival at Arica, Pershing was arguing by 
cable with the State Department over a premature announcement of 
findings which he had forwarded but didn't want made public. He 
wrote in his journal of the proceedings on August 15, that he had 
considered it necessary to warn the Secretary of State to "keep his 
hands off and not even intimate to the ambassadors of the two coun- 
tries [Chile and Peru] that I had cabled him the situation." He felt that 
nothing would be accomplished if the State Department "meddled" 
through "premature leaks" to the countries involved. 

Laborious, exhausting, and exasperating, the negotiations went on 
for month after month. At night Pershing wrote his reports and whiled 
away the hours playing blackjack with his associates in the wardroom 
of the Rochester. 

Occasionally, in the back country, there were flare-ups of violence 
between Peruvian settlers and Chilean soldiers. Pershing described a 
typical incident on November 22, 1925. A Chilean carbineer and two 
companions broke into a Peruvian's home, tied him up, and raped his 
wife. Led by the headman of a nearby Peruvian settlement, the vic- 
tim's compatriots attacked the Chilean military post and killed the 
rapist. On the Chilean side, Pershing wrote, "The dead carbineer is 
being heralded as a great hero and charges are flying thick and fast 
against the Peruvians." 

American sympathy was largely pro-Peruvian, particularly since the 
Chilean press was bitterly critical of "American interference." Occa- 
sionally, too, Americans who had come down to Arica out of idle 
curiosity or looking for excitement caused Pershing embarrassment. 
One such specimen was an American woman who created an "inci- 
dent" by loudly charging that she had been fired upon by Chileans 
while out riding with a couple of Peruvian gentlemen. Pershing couldn't 
quite believe her story, considered her a sensation seeker in any case, 
and suggested to the State Department that the "very headstrong" 
young lady be gently removed from Arica before she started a shooting 
war between Peru and Chile. 

By December 2, Pershing developed what may have been a diplo- 
matic toothache. Little headway was being made in the negotiations, 
particularly with the Chileans. He found that he needed dental surgery, 
which could only be performed in the States, he said, suggesting to 
Secretary of State Kellogg that he "might call me to Washington to a 


conference as that would seem a plausible thing to do and would not 
arouse criticism." 

Thus Pershing removed himself from the Tacna-Arica dispute, 
drawing from General March the gleeful comment that his "failure in 
diplomacy . . . might have been predicted, and the subsequent solu- 
tion of that matter by our diplomatic representative in Peru, Alexander 
P. Moore, under direction of the State Department, only showed the 
truth of the old adage, 'Let the shoemaker stick to his last.' " Actually 
it took another four years of wrangling to settle the dispute. March, 
still smarting over his replacement as chief of staff by Pershing and 
their wartime disagreements, was not entirely just in his observations. 
After Pershing returned home with his toothache, General William Las- 
siter took over as Chief United States Commissioner at Arica and also 
failed to negotiate a settlement. It wasn't until 1929 that Chile and 
Peru agreed to divide Tacna-Arica between them and finally resolved 
a half century of bickering. 

Pershing was out of the country when General Billy Mitchell was 
finally called to account for his excessive propagandizing on behalf 
of an independent and greatly strengthened Air Force. A general 
court-martial was convened to try Mitchell on charges of having vio- 
lated the 95th Article of War by publicly accusing the military and 
naval high commands of "incompetency, criminal negligence, and al- 
most treasonable administration of national defense," thus deliberately 
choosing martyrdom to continued service in the Ak Corps. 

While Pershing was still in Arica, he received a cable from his suc- 
cessor as chief of staff, Major General John L. Hines, who had been 
a corps commander in the A.E.F., asking that Pershing appear at 
Mitchell's trial. General Hines, Pershing wrote, "stated that counsel for 
Mitchell had been permitted to develop his defense with great freedom 
and that the trial was being conducted primarily for the purpose of 
influencing public opinion." 

Pershing decided against appearing as a prosecution witness, though 
no one was less sympathetic to Mitchell's ideas or methods. 

"I do not believe that there need be much worry," he wrote regard- 
ing the outcome of the court-martial, "as the War Department stands 
on too solid a foundation." Brilliant mavericks had been put in their 
place before, and Mitchell was no exception. Even Mitchell's friend 
and fellow airman, the late General H. H. Arnold, conceded that "the 


thing for which Mitchell was really being tried he was guilty of, and 
except for Billy, everybody knew it, and knew what it meant." Mitch- 
ell's career was scrapped, but he achieved the martyrdom he sought 
and with it the public sympathy which finally resulted in everything 
he had worked and pleaded for. 

Pershing did not gloat, at least not publicly or on the record, over 
the comeuppance that Mitchell had defied his more conservative 
brother officers to inflict upon him. Perhaps he realized better than 
some of his old comrades that the day of the mechanized warrior was 
coming on just as swiftly as the shades were closing around the cavalry- 
men who had galloped over the graves of the Sioux. 

17. On the Shelf 

Twenty-four years, and the blessing (or curse) of an extraordinarily 
long life, stretched ahead of Pershing after his retirement as chief of 
staff. They might have been insupportable to a man with his active 
mind and body without some contact with the working world. He was 
far luckier than most men in that a sympathetic government found 
ways of keeping him busy at least part of the time, supplied him with a 
staff and a suite of offices, kept reminding him that he would always 
be on "active service" with the government as its senior military ad- 
viser, and maintained him on full pay and allowances. Many an old 
fellow in the soldiers' home could envy his lot. 

He divided his time between annual visits to France, winters in 
Arizona, and living in Washington the rest of the year. On his trips to 
France he invariably visited General P6tain, whom he admired above 
all the French soldiers. His principal concern overseas, as head of the 
Battle Monuments Commission, was to prevent an "unlimited spread 
of American monuments which gave the impression that Americans 
had done most of the fighting on the Western Front," as Frederick 
Palmer said. He had full authority over the number and size of the 
markers erected by the various units which had fought in France, as 
well as the vast military cemeteries near the main battlefields. He told 
a London newspaperman that he visited the battlefields every year in 
fulfillment of a promise he made in 1919 to "the men who trusted 
me" those who had fallen. Nostalgia for the great moments of his 
career also had a powerful attraction. Invariably he visited the town 
of Chaumont, where A.E.F. Headquarters had been, seeking out "old 
friends and familiar scenes." Although offered the hospitality of the 


chateau in which he had lived during the war, he insisted on staying at 
the Hotel de France in town, always in the modestly furnished Room 
No. 10 which ever since has been known as the "General Pershing 

In Washington he led a generally quiet and unsocial life. After a 
lifetime of rising at dawn, he began operating on a Bohemian sched- 
ule, often reading all night in his suite at the Carlton, then going to 
his office at noon or after lunch. The government assigned him Rooms 
256-260 in the old State, War and Navy Building, an impressively 
dignified, quiet, and high-ceilinged set of offices, with the portraits of 
his predecessors Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan staring down at him. 
Here he was surrounded by familiar faces: Colonel George E. Adam- 
son, his chief secretary, and Captain Ralph A. Curtin (subsequently a 
colonel), both of whom had risen from field clerks at A.E.F. Head- 
quarters, and others who helped him with his correspondence, ap- 
pointments, and writing chores. 

The man closest to him in his daily life was his veteran striker, Ser- 
geant Frank Lanckton, a typical Old Army reprobate who knew more 
ways of getting around the general than any six members of the 
French High Command. Lanckton attended the general with the maxi- 
mum of punctilio (in which there was occasionally discernible a touch 
of satire), flourishing salutes that fairly whipped the air, the indirect 
form of address, and much heel clicking, all of which may have 
seemed a little ridiculous to civilians. To Pershing they were a constant 
and welcome reminder of "cavalry smartness," of the old days on army 
posts from Manila to El Paso. 

Lanckton had started serving as his striker, or body servant, back 
when Pershing was military governor of Mindanao. Somehow they 
had become separated during the war and Lanckton had abandoned 
his employment as "the general's dog-robber" for more active soldier- 
ing. Pershing, touring a military hospital outside Paris, found him 
recuperating from a wound and immediately took him to his residence 
at 73 Rue de Varenne to convalesce. 

His only difficulty with Lanckton was the latter's tendency to tipple 
occasionally, not extravagantly by most men's standards, but Pershing 
was a one-drink man himself. Growing suspicious of his striker's be- 
havior, he would demand, "Have you been drinking?" 

"No, sir," Lanckton would righteously reply. 

"You have been drinking!" 


"Yes, sir!" Lanckton would say, unable under protocol to contra- 
dict his superior. 

When Lanckton was really in bad with Pershing, he would silently 
remove a photograph from his hip pocket and place it on the general's 
dresser where he could not help but see it. The photo showed Lanckton 
posing with all four of the Pershing children outside their home in 
Zamboanga mute testimony of his long and faithful service. A glance 
at that picture quickly allayed the general's annoyance. 

His son, Warren, was away at prep school, Phillips Exeter, but he 
saw to it that they were reunited during the holidays and vacations. 

Warren recalls that his father had "only a modicum of success" at 
supervising his education, though he received a constant stream of en- 
couraging and admonishing letters from his parent, particularly when 
he was slipping in his studies. 

Colonel Curtin remembers that when Warren's marks fell, the gen- 
eral would grumble to his aides that his son was "disgracing the fam- 
ily," but then "he'd get a letter from Warren asking for ten dollars and 
he'd beam with delight over being needed in some way. He was very 
proud of Warren, and wanted to be close to him." 

The concentrated affection he felt for his only surviving child did 
not influence him to spoil the boy, however. He had too vivid a mem- 
ory of his own struggles to acquire an education to permit his son any 
fancies that he was a member of the idle rich. 

Warren, therefore, was required to account for all his expenditures 
to Colonel Adamson, who handled the general's financial affairs in 
addition to all his other duties. Occasionally Pershing would cast a 
stern fatherly eye over those accounts himself. 

His son remembers one day when his father seized upon an item 
in his account fourteen dollars for a pair of shoes "a lot of money," 
he admits, "for shoes in those days." 

His father said, "Fourteen dollars is a ridiculous price to pay for a 
pair of boy's shoes. What do you think, Adamson?" 

Colonel Adamson glanced significantly at Pershing's London-made 
footwear and said, "How much did you pay for the shoes you're wear- 
ing, General?" 

Pershing hastily dropped the inquiry. 

From then on, Warren said, "I always looked on Colonel Adam- 
son as my friend and ally in any dealings with the old gent." 

Another member of the family who frequently visited the office was 


Pershing's younger brother Jim, who had none of his shyness and was 
totally unawed by the general's fame and position in the world. Per- 
shing's aides recall that the two brothers, as they grew older and more 
crotchety, were inclined to argue over almost any point of discussion. 
Jim, in fact, was one of the few people left on the face of the earth 
who would give him an argument, in which Pershing apparently took 
a fierce and secret joy. They remember one exchange as typical of the 
free-wheeling relationship of the Pershing brothers: 

"Jim, you're getting deaf as a post." 

"Jackie, you're crazy as hell." 

"Damn it all, I say you're getting deaf!" followed by the general's 
fist slamming on the top of his desk. 

"Look here, Jackie," Jim roared back, "you've been an officer all 
your life and you're used to being kowtowed to, but you can't bulldoze 

One habit that Pershing clung to, incongruous as it was to his im- 
maculate appearance, was chewing tobacco. He had finally quit smok- 
ing some years before, but cavalrymen, like baseball players, were 
great chewers, and this was one vice that he proposed to afford himself 
in his old age. He would gnaw off a large section of cigar, Colonel 
Curtin recalls, with a "sublime expression." He also chewed plug to- 
bacco when a good cigar wasn't handy. His aim at a cuspidor was 
regarded by his aides as superlative. As he worked over his corre- 
spondence or at writing the two-volume account of his services as 
commander in chief of the A.E.F., his aides in the outer office would 
hear the frequent ping of a well-placed shot. 

When a female visitor to his office was announced, the general would 
invariably inquire, "Is she good-looking?" 

If the answer was yes, Pershing would expel his quid and rinse his 
mouth out in the adjacent bathroom before his caller was admitted. 

Being headquartered in Washington, he kept a close eye on military 
affairs and was particularly diligent about assisting the careers of 
younger men who had served him well in France. He worked almost 
as hard at advancing the interests of such men as George C. Marshall 
as he had years before at promoting his own career. It may be doubted 
whether Marshall would ever have been appointed chief of staff, to his 
country's good fortune, without Pershing's constant publicizing of his 
virtues among highly placed friends. 

Pershing's relations with Marshall were close personally as well as 


professionally. He was Marshall's best man at his marriage to an at- 
tractive widow, Mrs. Katherine Tupper Brown, in Baltimore on Octo- 
ber 16, 1930. The new Mrs. Marshall wryly observed that a large 
crowd gathered outside the church, but "my friends were greatly out- 
numbered, I fear, by those curious to see General Pershing." 

Marshall had become assistant commandant of the infantry school 
at Fort Benning, where a number of brilliant young officers were monk- 
ishly striving to work out the tactics of future wars among them Major 
Omar N. Bradley, Major Joseph W. Stilwell, and Lieutenant J. Lawton 
Collins, three of World War IFs most competent soldiers. Later such 
future generals as Walter Bedell Smith, Eisenhower's chief of staff, and 
John R. Hodge, the postwar commander in South Korea, came under 
Marshall's pedagogical influence at Fort Benning. 

When General Douglas MacArthur succeeded to the post of chief of 
staff with absolutely no help from Pershing, one may be certainthe 
slowly rising curve of Marshall's career suffered an abrupt decline. 
On MacArthur's orders, Pershing's chief protege was assigned to take 
over as senior instructor of the Illinois National Guard, a considerable 
comedown which Marshall regarded as "a savage blow." Mrs. Mar- 
shall said that on receiving the news of his "exile" to Chicago "George 
had a gray, drawn look which I had never seen before." And when 
General Charles G. Dawes, former Vice-President and friend of both 
Pershing and Marshall, heard of the assignment, he exploded, "What! 
He can't do that. Hell, no! Not George Marshall. He's too big a man 
for this job. In fact he's the best goddamned officer in the U.S. Army." 
Pershing's own views on the subject are not a matter of record, but 
they were equally explosive. 

Pershing undertook the unusual gesture of visiting Marshall at his 
headquarters in Chicago. Marshall had to maneuver carefully so that 
members of his staff could meet the General of the Armies, who de- 
tested being "shown off." As Marshall's biographer has written, "Such 
introductions involved cunning, for Pershing would send out orders in 
advance explaining that he had not the least interest in being treated 
as a visiting fireman. . . . Marshall found pretexts for bringing his 
staff one by one into the room, and once they had entered Pershing 
was at their mercy, and the old gnarled General of the Armies [Per- 
shing had begun to suffer from arthritic rheumatism at this time], still 
upright in spite of great age, shook hands with the stenographers as 
though he had come deliberately for that purpose." 


Pershing soon thereafter wrote President Roosevelt recommending 
that Marshall be promoted to brigadier general, and the President sent 
a memorandum to the Secretary of War reading: "General Pershing 
asks very strongly Col. George S. Marshall (Infantry) be promoted 
to Brigadier. Can we put in list of next appointments? 54 years old." 
Secretary of War Dern, however, thought Marshall was "too young." 
Two years later Marshall was promoted to brigadier and assigned to 
command the 5th Infantry Brigade at Vancouver Barracks. Pershing, 
thanks to an earlier Roosevelt, had received his first star when he was 
ten years younger. 

In the summer of 1938, Marshall was transferred to the General 
Staff in Washington as assistant chief of staff, War Plans Division. 
Although just recovered from a desperate illness, Pershing again took 
the trouble to jog the President's elbow on Marshall's behalf, since 
General Malin Craig, another former A.E.F. staff officer, would soon 
be retiring. Pershing went to the White House and told Roosevelt, 
"Mr. President, you have a man over there in the War Plans Division 
who has just come here Marshall. Why don't you send for him and 
look him over? I think he will be a great help." 

Fortunately President Roosevelt didn't resent this coaching from the 
ancient General of the Armies. On the contrary, he emphasized to 
Pershing that he was to consider himself always as being on active 
duty. He had reason to be grateful for Pershing's espousal of the Mar- 
shall cause: several years hence he would be saying that he couldn't 
sleep properly when Marshall was out of the country. Twenty years of 
Pershing sponsorship finally was repaid on September 1, 1939. That 
day, on which Germany invaded Poland, Marshall was sworn in as 
chief of staff. In the war years ahead, Pershing considered him the 
only man with the moral and intellectual capacity to direct the Ameri- 
can forces scattered through Asia, Africa, and Europe, an opinion 
with which most men agreed. 

Despite their differences over a wide range of matters, both personal 
and professional, Pershing and MacArthur eventually were reconciled. 
Pershing had always respected MacArthur as "a fighter," the only kind 
of soldier he had any use for, much as he was repelled by the flam- 
boyance of MacArthur's methods. Was it really necessary for a brigade 
commander to indulge in such theatrical effects as wearing a floppy 
hat, a knee-length scarf, and a whangee cane while leading his men 


over the top? Then, too, there was the discomfiting memory of the 
scandal circulating at the time of Mac Arthur's first marriage. 

While still chief of staff, however, MacArthur had eloquently and 
successfully opposed the Convery-Taber amendment to the Economy 
Act, which was designed to cut army retirement pay. Suggestions were 
made in the subcommittee concerned with the measure that Pershing's 
$18,000 annual pension be substantially reduced. To these proposals 
MacArthur indignantly replied that the British Government had been 
far more generous with Field Marshal Haig, awarding him a $500,- 
000 trust fund from which his heirs were also to receive the income 
three generations after his death. 

Pershing, who had been wintering in Arizona, wrote from Tucson to 
thank MacArthur for defending his pension from an economy-minded 
Congress in that depression year of 1933: "Please allow me to send 
you my warmest congratulations upon the way you have succeeded in 
overcoming opposition in Congress to the Army. I think you have 
much to be thankful for, as we all have. And may I also express my 
appreciation for the way you have defended the Retired List and espe- 
cially your reference to me." 

Until he was well into his seventies and serious illness overtook him, 
Pershing kept himself moderately busy. For years he had been laboring 
over his personal account of commanding the A.E.F. The two-volume 
work was finally published and widely serialized in 1931, winning the 
Pulitzer prize for history that year. Considering the bitterness of the 
Battle of the Memoirs which follows every major war, his account was 
fairly free from acrimony of the personal kind; it was, in fact, devoid 
of personality, written in the colorless Olympian style characteristic 
of most high commanders, relieved only occasionally by the flashes of 
humor and insight which Pershing could display to his intimates. It is 
not difficult to believe his aides* insistence that Pershing wrote the book 
on his own, with only research help and editing from them. Some 
high-ranking Allied figures Prime Minister Clemenceau, in particular 
did not fare too well in My Experiences in the World War, nor was 
Foch unstintingly praised (as Petain was), but he did not use his liter- 
ary work as a platform to even old accounts. General March was 
mentioned only a half-dozen times, which may have been a comment 
in itself. 

Once that was out of the way, Pershing settled down to write the 


story of his pre-World War I years, and judging from various drafts 
and fragments to be found in the Pershing Papers it would have been 
a far livelier volume. He labored over it for a half-dozen years, with 
the help of Colonels Curtin and Charles B. Shaw, whose marginal 
comments and queries sometimes were as sharp, critical, and demand- 
ing as those of any editor dealing with an unpublished author. Per- 
shing the writer was far more amenable to criticism than Pershing the 
soldier had ever been. 

His health failed before the story of his early life could be com- 
pleted for publication. Just before his illness, however, he discussed 
a motion picture to be based on the work with a Hollywood producer. 
Gary Cooper was his choice to play the role of John J. Pershing, and 
considering the restrained style of that actor it was not a bad job of 
casting. A few years later, as a matter of fact, in The Real Glory, a 
story of the campaigns against the Moros, Cooper played the role of 
an army major who rather closely resembled Pershing in character and 

An extensive correspondence with old friends and comrades, and 
their widows, also took up much of his time. He was a particularly 
diligent sender of Christmas cards. Every year, Colonel Curtin recalls, 
Pershing would pore over the Blue Book listing army officers and their 
widows living in the Washington area. Occasionally he would pause 
at the name of a widow and say, "She hates my guts but send her one 

His son Warren realized one summer that he had finally grown up 
in his father's eyes when he was twenty or twenty-one years old. War- 
ren, then an undergraduate at Yale, was driving his father and his 
aunt May from Lincoln to Cheyenne. It was a rugged journey in those 
days, and after nightfall they ran into a driving rainstorm. The general 
usually sat in the back seat, calling out orders to the driver even 
though he had never learned to operate an automobile himself. On 
this rainy night Pershing was riding in the front, next to Warren, and, 
as his son recalls, "did a lot of back-seat driving from the front seat." 

Warren was "getting madder and madder at his suggestions and 
criticisms. In fact, it's the only time I can recall being angry with the 
old gent. 

"Finally I turned to him and said, Why in hell don't you stop telling 
me what to do? After all, I'm driving the car.' 


"My father said, 'Yes, but it happens to be my car.' 
"I said, 'But I happen to be the only one who can drive your car.' " 
The journey continued hi silence as the General of the Armies pon- 
dered this matter of insubordination. Pershing and his sister checked 
into a hotel in North Platte, Nebraska, while Warren brought in their 
luggage, including an old Gladstone bag which his father always car- 
ried on his travels and which contained many bottles of medicine and 
a flask of brandy. 

"Up in our adjoining rooms, my father leaned out of the bathroom 
and waved the flask at me, and said, 'I think it's about time you and 
I had our first drink together.' I'd had a few drinks before which he 
didn't know about and which I saw no reason for mentioning. The 
invitation was my father's way of indirectly apologizing for his back- 
seat driving and at the same time recognizing that I had reached man- 

Warren grew up hi his father's physical mold, with the same blond 
hair and gray-blue eyes, tall erect figure and soldierly bearing that dis- 
tinguished the elder Pershing from his cadet days. But he had abso- 
lutely no desire to follow his father into the military profession. Per- 
shing never pressed the point, though he was somewhat disappointed, 
when Warren showed no interest in entering West Point. He thor- 
oughly respected his son's determination to make his own career. There 
is none of the "iron commander" manner which Pershing imposed on 
himself in the personality and outlook of his son. Apparently having 
inherited much of his uncle Jim's geniality and his maternal grand- 
father's talent for persuasion, Warren was elected the most popular 
man in his class at Yale. On graduation he headed straight for Wall 
Street and a growing prominence in the financial world. He now heads 
the large brokerage bearing his name. 

In retirement, as during his A.E.F. command, Pershing's closest 
friends were General Harbord, who became president and later board 
chairman of the Radio Corporation of America on leaving the Army, 
and Charles G. Dawes, who was Vice-President under Coolidge. They 
frequently visited him in Washington and at the El Conquistador Hotel 
in Tucson during the winter. Harbord still addressed him with the 
deference of A.E.F. days as "General" and always remembered to send 
him telegrams on anniversaries and holidays; Dawes was the only man 
aside from his brother and sisters who called him "Jack." In their 


letters, Harbord and Pershing spent more time discussing their mutual 
literary efforts, the sales and reviews of their books, than military 
affairs. Harbord had authored two exceedingly valuable books on the 
A.E. P. Leaves from a War Diary and The American Army in France. 
On September 22, 1936, Pershing wrote Harbord consolingly after 
Cameron Forbes, their mutual friend in Boston and former governor 
general of the Philippines, had been critical of the latter work in a 
newspaper review. "You must remember," Pershing wrote, "that nei- 
ther of us is from Harvard and of course we are unable to give the 
Harvard touch to anything we do." 

Pershing was in Paris when Harbord's first wife, the former Emma 
Ovenshine, the daughter of a general, died in the Harbord home at 
Rye, New York. "The little lady had your wonderful red roses on her 
last day on earth," Harbord wrote Pershing, addressing him as "my 
dear longtime friend." "You lost a good friend when Emma went 
away. She loved you not only for all you have been to me, but on her 
own accord. As the years went by, she had a constantly growing pride 
that you kissed the bride at our wedding." 

Death and illness were taking so many of the friends he had known 
since service on the frontier. Pershing himself was resisting old age with 
all the vigor at his command, but he admitted in a letter to Harbord, 
"I am riding almost every day but the reporter who wrote in such 
glowing terms of my health stretched it considerably." Mr. and Mrs. 
Dawes were living in a cottage on the grounds of his hotel in Tucson 
and "we have done little but talk over old times." 

Rather than settling down in one place, Pershing continued his mi- 
grations from hotel to hotel, in Tucson, Washington, New York, Paris, 
Chaumont. Death at least would have a hard time pinning him down. 
In London during the spring of 1937 he suffered a "slight" heart at- 
tack, and arthritis was making its inroads. Soon he was no longer 
able to take his morning rides. He substituted walks instead, even when 
a cane became necessary. He had to keep moving somehow. 

Early in 1938 he fell seriously ill and was removed to the Desert 
Sanitarium outside Tucson. His heart and arteries were deteriorating 
and his kidneys had failed to function and he was seventy-eight years 
old. His physician, Dr. Roland Davison, ordered him placed under an 
oxygen tent; his relatives were summoned, and newspapers were pre- 
paring his obituary, noting that Haig, Foch, Clemenceau, and most of 


the leading figures of the world war had already preceded him in 

Through the month of February, Pershing, in a coma much of the 
time, struggled for his life, his face sunken and gray under the tent 
which kept him breathing. Specialists who examined him doubted that 
he could live more than a few weeks. 

The Army prepared to undertake the last solemn rites in Arlington. 
His uniform was flown out. The IX Corps area dispatched a special 
train to take his body back to Washington, and Major General H. J. 
Brees was ordered from Fort Sam Houston to take charge of the ar- 

All premature. The doctors had not reckoned sufficiently with his 
powerful constitution and his grip on life. The General of the Armies 
began to take disgusted notice of the grave, head-shaking atmosphere 
of his sickroom. He was highly annoyed when he became aware of the 
elaborate preparations being made to convey him to Arlington and 
the magnificence of his last rites. There might be a faltering beat in 
his arteries, but he wasn't ready for the beat of muffled drums and the 
last ride on the black-draped caisson. Anger seemed to act as a tonic. 
On March 1, the New York Times was able to announce that he had 
"improved considerably/' furthermore that he was demanding solid 

His son, who was living with his aunt May hi a wing of the sani- 
tarium, told how the general rallied at the point of death. "One night 
the doctors said he couldn't live for more than a few days. You could 
almost see him sinking into death. Then, a few nights later, he made 
an almost visible effort to gather up his last resources of strength and 
vitality; it was as though he had made a firm decision not to die. Next 
morning he raised himself up and swung his legs over the side of the 
bed. His first words in days were, 1 want you to go ahead with your 
marriage.' I had planned to be married in April but thought it would 
have to be postponed. I'll be at your wedding,' he said." 

Dr. Davison himself was convinced that Pershing was recovering a 
few mornings later when he started to leave the sickroom while Per- 
shing was being served his breakfast. "Don't you go away," Pershing 
snapped. "You said you'd be right back and you'd better be." 

Against his doctors' advice, Pershing not only attended Warren's 
wedding in New York the following month but made his annual pil- 
grimage to France. In August he was waiting in Paris when Warren 


and his bride stopped off there on their round-the-world honeymoon. 
His father was in their suite when a waiter brought up a large tray of 
wines and liquors with the compliments of the hotel. Pershing eyed 
the array of bottles and half seriously cautioned his son, "It doesn't 
mean you have to drink all of them, you know." 

Once again war flamed on the horizon in Europe. Two decades 
earlier, Pershing had urged that the lesson of military defeat be im- 
pressed upon the whole German nation. By failing to advance farther 
than the Rhineland, the Allies, against his advice, allowed the German 
nationalists to proclaim before a new generation that their armies had 
never been defeated, that collapse and treachery at home had forced 
their withdrawal and the shameful submission to the Treaty of Ver- 
sailles. Hitler and his Nazis, winning one reckless gamble after an- 
other, had cleared the French out of the Rhineland, engulfed Austria, 
bluffed the British and the French at Munich, seized part, then all of 
Czechoslovakia, and now were preparing to reach out for Danzig, the 
Corridor, Poland. 

President Roosevelt was assuring American parents their sons would 
never fight another war. But he was a politician, aware of American 
opposition to entanglement in another European war. Pershing, less 
inhibited, began speaking out against the prevailing lassitude. In the 
spring of 1939 he urged that an army of 400,000 men be trained and 
organized immediately. Many of his fellow citizens considered him a 
senile old warmonger and approved of World Peaceways advertise- 
ments in the newspapers showing a crippled war veteran in a wheel 
chair and headed, "Hello, Sucker!" 

Then France and England went to war with Germany and her allies, 
and it looked like 1918 all over again when the Germans, having 
blitzed Poland out of existence as a sovereign nation, turned a steam- 
roller offensive loose and once again Sedan fell, the Meuse was crossed, 
the French and British armies were split apart . . . only this time the 
German war plan worked. Part of France was occupied; the rest be- 
came a Nazi vassal under Marshal Petain, older than Pershing him- 
self, a tragic and confused relic of more glorious days. With England 
standing alone against a Nazi-occupied continent, World War II ap- 
peared to be lost less than a year after it began. 

On a warm May afternoon during the battle for France, President 
Roosevelt summoned the General of the Armies to the White House, 


partly for counsel, perhaps, but mostly to remind the American peo- 
ple of their historic relationship with France and England. Newspaper 
photographers gathered on the White House porch as Pershing, lean- 
ing heavily on his cane, approached the door. He wrathfully raised his 
cane; at eighty he still didn't want his picture taken until he looked his 
best. The photographers lowered their cameras until he could put his 
cane aside, draw himself up at attention, and glower at posterity like 
the younger Black Jack, his gray Homburg settled squarely on his 
white head, black suit sharply pressed, mustache clipped to a firm line 
of bristles, chin thrust out. Then he waved his cane almost jauntily and 
marched inside to see the President. 

Shortly thereafter he made a nationwide radio address designed to 
counter, with all his prestige, the prevailing sentiment against involve- 
ment in the European crisis. 

"It is not hysterical to insist that democracy and liberty are threat- 
ened," he told the nation. "By sending help to the British, we can still 
hope to keep this war on the other side of the Atlantic where the ene- 
mies of liberty, if possible, should be defeated. . . . 

"And I am telling you tonight, because it is my duty to warn you 
before it is too late, that the British Navy needs destroyers and small 
craft to convoy merchant ships, to escort its warships and hunt sub- 
marines, and to repel invasions. 

"We have an immense reserve of destroyers left over from the other 
war, and in a few months the British will be completing a large number 
of destroyers of their own. The most critical time, therefore, is the next 
few weeks or months. If there is anything we can do to save the Brit- 
ish fleet during that time, we shall be failing in our duty to America if 
we do not do it. 

"Tomorrow may be forever too late to keep war from the Amer- 

Shortly afterward the United States, under a Lend-Lease arrange- 
ment, sent her overage destroyers to Britain. 

Pershing made his last appearance at the annual dinner of the Baltic 
Society, which was composed of men who accompanied him to Eu- 
rope as the advance element of the A.E.F. Harbord, as usual, sat on his 
right. On his left was his former aide, Major General George S. Patton, 
Jr., now commanding an armored division. 

Long before the reunion dinner came to a close, he quietly rose from 
his place and left, on orders from his physician. His appearance 


shocked his old comrades that night, and most of them doubted they 
would ever see him alive again. "It seemed as though suddenly he had 
become a very old man," Frederick Palmer wrote. "His stoop, his 
feeble steps as he withdrew, suggested that whatever the course of 
events in the waning world he might not be alive on the next anni- 
versary of the day of his departure in 1917 for Europe on the steamer 

Pershing soon entered Walter Reed Hospital to spend the rest of his 
days there, except for brief excursions outside. From that time on he 
would be wrapped in a cocoon of attention and solicitude, all but 
isolated from the world, all but forgotten as new armies were raised 
and new leaders were acclaimed. In the hospital he would be secure, 
he would be looked after properly, he would not have to face the 
numbing terror of a paralytic stroke alone in a hotel room, as must be 
expected by a man with his brittle arteries so the doctors told him 
but he went along unwillingly, cantankerously. He still hated to be 
fussed over, told what to eat and when to go to bed and whom he 
could see. He knew that this was a kind of surrender conditional, 
perhaps, but no less humiliating to a man of his pride. 

Never again did he go to the office in the State, War and Navy 
Building, now abandoned by the armed services in favor of the new 
Pentagon, but it was still his official headquarters, with "General of 
the Armies" on the door and Colonel Adamson sitting at his desk 
just inside. But his own office stayed empty from then on, its ornate 
fireplace cold, the long mirror over it reflecting no living presence. 

Almost every day Colonel Adamson or Colonel Curtin went out 
to Walter Reed Hospital to discuss the general's correspondence. Often 
Colonel Curtin joined him on an afternoon ride through Rock Creek 
Park, whose bridle paths he had traveled every morning during his 
more vigorous years. A sergeant drove them not Lanckton, he was 
gone like so many other friends. 

General Marshall, now chief of staff, went out to the hospital every 
other Sunday afternoon to keep him posted on the growing United 
States Army and developments in Europe, where the Germans were 
invading Russia on a broad front and the British were fighting to 
maintain themselves in the Mediterranean. Recalling those visits, Mrs. 
Marshall wrote in Together: "Often I would go with him [General 
Marshall] and some Sundays we would lunch together in the Gener- 
al's sitting room. George would go over the whole situation with him 


and bring him up to date. General Pershing was very feeble at this time 
but still dapper and immaculate in his dress." 

The news of Pearl Harbor, penetrating the walls of insulation his 
doctors designed to separate the old man from the wartime excitement, 
came as a distant thunderclap. He was told of the Japanese attack 
after his nap that December afternoon. His first thought, naturally dis- 
maying to his doctors, was that somehow he could be of service to the 
government, if only as an adviser. The man who had disdained strat- 
egy as the empty theorizing of military intellectuals like Foch now spent 
hours studying maps of the world, communiques from the fighting 
fronts, and newspaper dispatches, trying to relate this new kind of war, 
leaping from continent to continent on the wings of the long-range 
bombers which fie had scorned in Mitchell's proselytizing days, to his 
own narrower experiences as a commander of expeditionary forces. 
Those columns he led against the Moros and against Villa, even the 
A.E.F. itself, must have seemed incredibly antiquated. Yet he felt 
that he had something to offer. He immediately wrote President Roose- 
velt a letter tendering his services to the "last ounce of my strength." 
The President replied, "You are magnificent. You always have been 
and you always will be"-but he made no mention of accepting the 
offer. Instead he regularly sent bouquets of red roses to Pershing's 
hospital suite. 

The old general fretted in his unwelcome isolation, felt he was be- 
ing ignored and neglected. Couldn't they find something for the Gen- 
eral of the Armies to do? He was hurt, too, that General Marshall no 
longer had the time to come out to see him every other Sunday. 

His only consolation was that his son, Warren, was keeping the 
Pershing name alivethough very quietly and inobtrusively in the 
records of the Army of the United States. Warren had called him one 
day to announce, with some trepidation, that he had entered the Army 
as an enlisted man; he also wanted it made clear that he wanted no 
help from the Pershing legend, no influence brought to bear on his 
behalf by his father's friends. Subsequently, Warren was admitted to 
an officer candidate school and won his lieutenant's bars at Fort Bel- 
voir in the Corps of Engineers. One gesture from his father's friends 
he could not forestall: General Marshall came over to Fort Belvoir 
to pin the insignia on him at the commissioning ceremony. A short 
time later General Patton wanted to make Warren his aide, as Patton 
had been Pershing's, but the latter advised against it and told Patton 


that Warren was determined to "make it on his own." By the war's 
end, Warren had risen to the rank of major, had served with the 75th 
Division and later on the staff of the First Army in its operations from 
Normandy to the Elbe. 

Feeling ignored and forgotten as he did, Pershing sometimes tended 
to view events with a jaundiced eye. "There seems to be a lack of con- 
fidence in the management of affairs. . . ." he wrote Harbord in the 
spring of 1942, and he still suspected the British of being inclined to 
treat the Americans as a colonial army. "There is one phase of this 
that I am rather uneasy about and that is the tendency of the British 
to grab the command wherever the troops are thrown together." 

Pershing was offended when generals departing for commands 
abroad failed to take their leave of him. He believed they owed that 
much to the General of the Armies, busy and preoccupied though they 
might be. Eisenhower had never been one of "Pershing's boys," but the 
old man was highly irritated when the leader of the second A.E.F. 
hurried off to Europe without seeing him. "I don't even know the man," 
Pershing growled when someone brought up Eisenhower's name a 
short time later. 

Patton, now, whatever anyone said about his tendency to bellow 
and his pistol-packing showmanship, had a proper cavalryman's re- 
spect for the amenities. When Patton left Pershing's headquarters in 
1917 to take up tank training instead of remaining as his aide, Per- 
shing had written Mrs. Patton, "This is the second time Patton has 
left my staff. I am writing to tell you he has not been fired." Pershing, 
however, managed to forgive him for quitting the horse cavalry in 
favor of the "clanking iron monsters." 

Before leaving the States to command the armored forces in the 
North African campaign, General Patton called on his old commander 
and wrote in his diary that day (October 11, 1942) : 

". . . He did not recognize me until I spoke. Then his mind seemed 
quite clear. He looks very old. It is probably the last time I shall see 
him but he may outlive me. [He did.] I said that when he took me to 
Mexico in 1916 he gave me my start. He replied, 1 can always pick 
a fighting man and God knows there are few of them. I am happy 
they are sending you to the front at once. I like Generals so bold that 
they are dangerous. I hope they give you a free hand.' He recalled 
my killing the Mexicans and when I told him I was taking the same 
pistol he said, 1 hope you kill some Germans with it.' " 

Pershing told him that "at the start of the war he was hurt because 


no one consulted him, but he was now resigned to sit on the sidelines 
with his feet hanging over." 

Patton said that Pershing "almost cried" as he told of being ignored. 

"It is pathetic how little he knows of the war. 

"When I left I kissed his hand and asked for his blessing. He 
squeezed my hand and said, 'Good-by George, God bless you and 
keep you, and give you victory.' 

"I put my hat on and saluted when I left, and he returned it like he 
used to, and twenty-five years seemed to drop from him. He said that 
when he started World War I he was just my age. A truly great soldier." 

The following year, when the late Henry Wales of the Chicago 
Tribune visited fyim, having maintained an acquaintance with the gen- 
eral since covering A.E.F. Headquarters in the other war, Pershing 
complained "on several occasions" that no one came to see him any 
more. "I haven't seen Marshall for a long, long time. Those maps you 
see" he gestured toward the wall, which was covered with maps 
clipped from newspapers "are all I have seen." The calumny heaped 
on Marshal P6tain as chief of state of the Vichy regime also bewil- 
dered Pershing. "The general," Wales wrote, "cannot believe that the 
Marshal is a traitor and cannot understand the reasons why P6tain, 
after those years of service, is in disgrace." 

P6tain's fate, as a matter of fact, preyed on the old man's mind al- 
most to the day of his death. 

When General Harbord sent him a copy of Philip Guedalla's just 
published The Two Marshals, a corrosive study of the lives of Bazaine 
(who surrendered Metz in 1871) and Petain, Pershing wrote a letter 
of thanks and added that "I shall be particularly interested in reading 
this indictment of Marshal Petain." 

Undoubtedly Harbord was reflecting Pershing's opinion, too, when 
he wrote the general, "This man Guedalla is one of the most brutal 
writers in a keen, smooth way that I have read. ... I think the book 
is unjust to P6tain. ... I think he is the victim of the most unfortu- 
nate lot of circumstances that ever faced a Commander in his old age. 
I do not think it was a defeatist tendency of Petain that lost the war 
in France. It was the character of the French themselves the tendency 
to Communism, with the Blum Front Populaire, and all those things. 
. . . It is a calamity that these things struck Marshal P6tain in his old 
age, but I think the old boy has done as well as anybody could with 
the same setup." 

In this mutual loyalty to their old friend, the two elderly gentlemen 


stood almost alone, refusing to blame Petain for the excesses of the 
Vichy regime or the brutal oppressions of its Nazi-directed police. 

The memories they shared, and the understanding, the inobtrusive 
sympathy Harbord gave him in those war years when everyone else 
seemed to have forgotten him, were a constant prop to Pershing's mo- 
rale as he sat day after day in his wheel chair, placed at the window of 
his suite, watching the play of a fountain in the courtyard outside. 

Harbord always remembered tq write or telegraph on the anniver- 
sary of the Battle of Saint-Mihiel. On September 11, 1943, Harbord 
wrote that "I am thinking about how your mind must be turning this 
afternoon to the eve of St. Mihiel twenty-five years ago to the rush 
of great events transpiring around you as a center and inspiration that 
night. . . . We both have a lot of precious memories . . . a lot that 
no one else has. . . . What a life you have lived, what a record you 
made, what miracles you wrought. . . . You will loom larger and 
larger in history as the years go by. . . ." 

A year later Harbord wrote him, "It is very cheering to read of the 
achievements of Patton, Patch and others, and I think your training 
and your example live on in the achievements of the American Armies 
during the last few months. It must have made you a little homesick to 
read of the place names, as it did me." 

Just once Pershing was permitted to step toward the center of the 
wartime stage. That was during the fall of 1943 when the British and 
American joint chiefs of staff decided at their Quebec meeting that 
General Marshall would be named to command OVERLORD, the 
invasion of Normandy, and Eisenhower would be recalled to take over 
as chief of staff. President Roosevelt, Secretary of War Stimson, and 
Marshall himself, above all, wanted the latter to lead the invasion of 
the Nazi-held French coast. Many high-ranking officers in Washington 
were alarmed at the prospect, believed that only Marshall had the 
capacity to oversee the campaigns hi all the theaters of war. They pre- 
vailed on General Malin Craig, former chief of staff and presently 
head of the War Department's Personnel Board, to persuade General 
Pershing to write President Roosevelt protesting the Marshall-Eisen- 
hower transfer. Pershing agreed at once and on September 16, 1943, 
wrote the President: 

"I am so greatly disturbed by the repeated newspaper reports that 
General Marshall is to be transferred to the tactical command in Eng- 
land, that I am writing to express my fervent hope that these reports 
are unfounded. 


"We are engaged in a global war of which the end is still far distant, 
and for the wise strategical guidance of which we need our most ac- 
complished officer as Chief of Staff. I voice the consensus of informed 
military opinion in saying that officer is General Marshall. To transfer 
him to a tactical command in a limited area, no matter how seemingly 
important, is to deprive ourselves of the benefit of his outstanding 
strategical ability and experience. I know of no one at all comparable 
to replace him as Chief of Staff. 

"I have written this, Mr. President, because of my deep conviction 
that the suggested transfer of General Marshall would be a funda- 
mental and very grave error in our military policy." 

A very flatteringly phrased "no" was President Roosevelt's reply 
four days later. 'His letter to Pershing read: 

"You are absolutely right about George Marshall and yet, I think 
you are wrong, too. He is, as you say, far and away the most valuable 
man as Chief of Staff. But, as you know, the operations for which we 
are considering him are the biggest that we will conduct in this war. 
. . . The best way I can express it is to tell you that I want George 
to be the Pershing of the second World War and he cannot be if we 
keep him here. I know you will understand." 

Several months later, however, Roosevelt decided against naming 
Marshall as Supreme Commander in Europe and told him, "I feel now 
that I will not be able to sleep at night with you out of the country." 
Pershing's letter must have played some part in persuading the Presi- 
dent to change his mind, with the result that Eisenhower stayed on to 
lead his "crusade in Europe" and with that enormous prestige as his 
springboard to serve two terms in the presidency. 

Pershing and Harbord frequently discussed the various American 
commanders in their letters and decided that MacArthur was the 
ablest of the generals in the field, that Patton was the best combat 
leader in the European theater. "Am glad to see MacArthur doing so 
well," Pershing wrote Harbord late in 1944, at the height of Mac- 
Arthur's steppingstone campaign across the western Pacific. "I am sure 
that you, like all the other oldtimers who have served in the Islands, 
have been particularly thrilled by his recent successes." Neither was 
particularly enthusiastic about Eisenhower, Harbord writing on Feb- 
ruary 20, 1945, "Confidentially, I do not see much to General Eisen- 
hower except as a great coordinator of a lot of different agencies. 
Perhaps I do him an injustice though." Pershing thought the command 
in Europe should have gone to General Lesley McNair, who was kept 


at home to supervise the ground-force training but who was killed 
while observing operations in Normandy when American bombers at- 
tacked their own troops' positions by mistake. The highest praise Per- 
shing could give an officer was to say that "he's a fighter, a fighter." 
Eisenhower had to subordinate the "fighter's" role to his wider re- 
sponsibilities; he was the Foch, not the Pershing, of World War II. 

As for the way the American operations in Europe were conducted, 
according to Frederick Palmer, Pershing was opposed to the costly 
and laborious campaign up the Italian peninsula and favored striking 
directly across the Channel at the French coast rather than assaulting 
the Norman beaches. 

He was determined to live long enough to see another Allied vic- 
tory, and this wish was granted him in full measure. He took great 
comfort in Harbord's letter on V-E Day, May 8, 1945: "I still think 
ours was a properly fought war and that you are the greatest soldier 
of our time and, if your views had been adopted at the end of the last 
war, the present one would not have occurred." Very few veterans 
of World War I would not have agreed with him; the end of that war 
left more than its share of untidy and complex problems, but the 
Russo-American confrontation on the Elbe, the fatal hesitation to take 
Berlin, the Russian seizures in eastern Europe, pointed to an even un- 
tidier future. 

Close to the end of the war in the Pacific, from one of its remotest 
corners, came word of an incident peculiarly satisfying to the eighty- 
five-year-old general in Walter Reed Hospital. Shortly after the vic- 
tory over the Japanese forces on Mindanao, General Robert Eichel- 
berger, the army commander under MacArthur, General George 
Kenney, the Air Force commander in that area, and Major General 
Jens Doe, commanding the 24th Division, landed on the island of 
Jolo. The first man who came to greet them was the wizened old 
Sultan of Jolo, who recalled that he had submitted to Captain Pershing 
as a young warrior in 1905. Ever since then, he said, he had been 
loyal to the Americans. Japanese soldiers who ventured any distance 
from their posts were invariably killed by the Moros. The Japanese 
occupation forces in the southern Philippines, in fact, feared the 
Moros far more than the returning American Army. In that far corner 
of the Pacific, at least, the work of Black Jack Pershing was not for- 

18, Muffled Drums and Taps 

In his last years Pershing was the unwilling and occasionally rebellious 
captive of his doctors, his nurses, and his severely watchful sister May. 
His world had shrunken to the confines of the two-room penthouse 
on the third floor of the Walter Reed Hospital, quarters which he 
often urged the doctors to turn over to the war wounded. He was 
caged in the antiseptic hush of hospital routine, of cajoling doctors, 
and of dietitians proclaiming the virtues of poached eggs and creamed 
spinach, and worst of all in the growingly helpless husk of his once 
powerful body. May Pershing moved into the penthouse suite to keep 
him company, see to it that he obeyed the doctors, and bar the door 
to all but a few visitors Harbord, Dawes, Warren and his wife (who 
had provided Pershing with two grandsons, John and Richard). 

The general was bored, restless, resentful in his necessary confine- 
ment. He protested when his office was finally moved to the Pentagon. 
When the War Department asked him to pose for a photograph, he 
told them to go to hell. He didn't want to be remembered this way. 
All he wanted now was to be left alone. 

There was the De Gaulle Incident to prove his point. When the 
leader of the Free French came to Washington, someone thought it 
would be a nice gesture to present him to Pershing, apparently un- 
aware of his stubborn sympathy for Marshal Petain, who was to spend 
his last years in an island prison. 

"And how is Marshal P6tain?" Pershing demanded, amid general 
consternation, immediately after being introduced to the Free French 


Most of those present, regarding the question as tactless, if not in- 
sulting, looked as though the roof had fallen on them. 

General de Gaulle, who once served under Petain, understood the 
soldierly spirit in which the question was asked. He handled himself 
"admirably," according to one person present at the meeting, and 
didn't even blink at the blunt question. So far as he knew, he gravely 
and politely replied, the marshal was in good health. 

Aside from those infrequent recognitions of his past fame, an oc- 
casional hearty lunch was one of the few consolations permitted the 
old man. Every noon the staff dietitian would appear and read off the 
menu, which was seldom inspiring to a man of Pershing's educated 

"Jackie," Miss Pershing would say to her brother, using the name 
by which she had called him since childhood and which never failed 
to startle any new member of the hospital staff present, "why don't 
you have some of this nice clear soup." 

Pershing would glower at her over the rim of his glasses. "May, 
you do as you please about eating and let me alone!" 

Fairly often he would be permitted to send over to the Carlton for 
a dozen oysters or some other dish he fancied invariably over the 
protests of his sister. 

Once he threatened to move out of his "prison" and back to the 
Carlton, but Major General Shelly Marietta, the head of Walter Reed 
Hospital, talked him out of it. 

Just once Pershing managed to have a brief fling outside the hospi- 
tal walls, when he went A.W.O.L. for the first time in his life. How 
that happened has been related by Colonel John M. Virden, one of 
whose duties on reassignment to the Pentagon was to take charge of 
a bulky folder titled "Procedures to be followed in the event of the 
death of General John J. Pershing." The first order of procedure read: 

"You, as the responsible officer, will be the first person notified in 
the event of the passing of General Pershing. At whatever hour this 
message reaches you, whether day or night, you will immediately notify 
the President of the United States, in person." 

All the documents in that folder hardly prepared Colonel Virden 
for what happened a short time later. 

One day he received an excited call from Walter Reed: "General 
Pershing has disappeared!" 

This was one eventuality the Pentagon hadn't counted on. Virden 


began calling everyone who had known Pershing and finally came up 
with a lead. Pershing had always been very fond of the sedate old 
Carlton, where he had lived off and on for many years. The colonel 
checked with the hotel and found that Pershing had indeed moved in. 

A doctor was dispatched immediately from Walter Reed. He found 
the general in his old suite, brooding over the remains of a feast. Per- 
shing had checked into the hotel that morning, demanded a large 
drink of bourbon to whet his appetite, and then ordered up a roast- 
duck dinner with all the trimmings. He was just sipping a pony of 
brandy when the doctor arrived. 

"Ah, sir," he growled at the doctor, "you've found me, have you? 
Well, you can remove yourself from my sight now while I finish my 

The doctor withdrew as ordered, and a few minutes later his pa- 
tient consented to return to the hospital and his diet of cottage cheese 
and baby food. 

The visits of his friends, Harbord and Dawes, were fewer and fewer 
with each passing year. Dawes could barely walk with the help of a 
cane, but he was still talkative and jovial. Harbord had been stricken 
with nephritis and barely survived. He wrote Pershing on April 11, 
1946, explaining why he hadn't visited the capital for almost a year: 
"I have more friends in Arlington than I have in Washington." The 
next year he resigned as chairman of the board of RCA, and five weeks 
later, on August 20, 1947, Major General James G. Harbord, one 
of the three or four ablest officers who served with the A.E.F., died 
quietly in his home outside New York. By then the world outside, 
even the deaths of his closest friends, had become very dim and far 
away to the General of the Armies. He had suffered a stroke which 
paralyzed one side of his body, and he had to be lifted in and out 
of bed. He spent his days in a rather odd costume: a pair of pajamas 
from Sulka with a high Russian collar, around which he fastened a 
tie, and four dressing gowns and bathrobes to keep any stray draft 
from chilling an old man's bones. Frail and sunken-eyed, he passed 
hours hi his wheel chair, staring out at the fountain in the courtyard 
and perhaps, through the veil of water, recaptured other and happier, 
livelier scenes. Few men, certainly, were able to look back on a fuller 
life, with heaping measures of personal tragedy and public triumph. 

No one except members of his immediate family and the hospital 
staff came to the door any more. Mile. Resco had spent the wartime 


years in Washington and frequently visited him, but she had returned 
to Paris and was living in the apartment in the Rue des Renaudes, its 
walls covered with mementos, a bronze bust and a portrait of Pershing 
in the salon, krises and other weapons seized during his Philippine 
campaigns, several swords presented to him by Allied governments, 
one of the red, white, and blue pennants that flew from his automobile 
on his tours of the front in 1917 and 1918. 

Henry Wales of the Chicago Tribune, one of the few newspaper- 
men Pershing ever took into his confidence, called at the hospital in 
September of 1947 to find the door guarded against all visitors by 
May Pershing. He caught only a glimpse of Pershing: 

"Propped up by four pillows, the General lay on a narrow cot near 
the window, his eyes wide open and fixed on me in the doorway. They 
flickered as he recognized me and he moved as though to speak, but 
Miss Pershing tugged at my arm. Tm sorry I can't let you talk to 
him,' she whispered, 'but they have given me specific instructions he 
cannot receive visitors.' " 

During the summer of the following year, Pershing sank lower and 
lower, his pulse only a faint flutter, his eyes clouded with the recog- 
nition of death. Washington was full of excitement that summer; the 
Russians had denied their former allies access to Berlin and the tremen- 
dous effort required to supply the former German capital by air was 
under way; and there were rumors that World War III could break out 
at any moment. 

Preoccupied as it was, however, the capital took pause at the final 
bulletin to be issued from the Pershing suite at Walter Reed Hospital. 

The General of the Armies was dead. 

At 3:50 A.M. on the morning of July 15, 1948, in his eighty-eighth 
year, John J. Pershing simply stopped living. The cause of death was 
given as arteriosclerosis and auricular fibrillation. 

Outside of the family, President Truman was the first to be informed 
of his death, receiving the news as he stepped off a train from Phila- 
delphia shortly before dawn at the Union Station. The President had 
served in the A.E.F. as a captain in the field artillery. "Embodied in 
General Pershing's character," he said, "were all those soldierly quali- 
ties that are essential to a great captain: brilliant leadership, steadfast 
courage, tireless energy, unswerving loyalty and constant devotion to 

All over Washington the mimeograph machines ground out the offi- 


cial tributes. General Marshall, then Secretary of State, said that Per- 
shing had "perfection in soldierly qualities, dynamic leadership, and 
American patriotism. A great soldier, devoid of personal and political 
ambitions ... his influence went far toward shaping the destinies of 
our armies in two great wars." 

To Secretary of Defense Forrestal he "symbolized the best in the 
military traditions of our nation." 

Secretary of War Kenneth C. Royall emphasized that he should be 
remembered for his service as chief of staff, the development of a citi- 
zens' army, the modernization of the General Staff, and the expansion 
of the system of military education as well as his victories in the field, 
and that he should be credited with "the development of techniques 
which led to the victories of World War II." 

Old grudges long forgotten, General MacArthur, commanding the 
occupation forces in Tokyo, said that "Pershing represented the leg- 
endary ideal of a past era" and that his qualities would be "stamped 
on the United States Army for all time." 

Three days later Pershing's body lay in state, resting on the catafalque 
fashioned for Abraham Lincoln, in the rotunda of the Capitol. 

The next day, July 19, Pershing was given one of the most impres- 
sive funerals in Washington's history. The procession moved in a driv- 
ing rain from the Capitol to Arlington, where he was to be buried on a 
slope which had once been part of Robert E. Lee's estate. Three 
thousand five hundred soldiers, sailors, and marines, including the 
456th Airborne Field Artillery Battalion from Fort Bragg, the 3rd 
Infantry Regiment from Fort Myer, and 500 West Point upperclassmen 
marched along the four-mile route to the slow beat of muffled drums. 
Three hundred thousand persons watched the procession. 

The casket was borne on a caisson, followed by a caparisoned black 
horse with reversed boots in the stirrups. 

Generals Eisenhower and Bradley led the General Staff and a large 
group of general officers, in a rain-spattered phalanx, down the broad 
avenues to Arlington. 

There was a brief Episcopal service at the graveside, with General 
Marshall and members of the Pershing family standing nearby. 

Nineteen guns boomed a last salute to the General of the Armies. 

Taps sounded sweet and clear through the heavy summer air. 

Then soldiers and civilians alike turned slowly back to Washington 
to deal with a kind of non-shooting war which could hardly have 


been imagined by the general who was being lowered into the earth 
with all the dead memories of Indian wars and colonial campaigns. 

He should have died content; all the honor that the nation owed 
him was paid in full. In the muster roll of American generalship he is 
enshrined for all time as one of a very small and select company: 
George Washington, Winfield Scott, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, 
possibly one or two of the World War II generals. The Army has 
never let his name be forgotten; a tank and a missile presently are 
named for him, and more importantly he is held up as the best recent 
example of the prescribed military career. No one in American mili- 
tary history deviated less from what was expected of an officer. He 
was strictly Government Issue. 

His achievements owed more to character than intellect, to strength 
and simplicity and clearheadedness rather than to originality, native 
genius, or even talent. "If he was not a great man," wrote Frank H. 
Simonds, "there have been few stronger." 

Despite what were uttered as verbal wreaths on his death, he was 
not a great captain, certainly not in the sense of a Caesar, a Napoleon, 
a Belisarius, or a Lee. He was the kind of practical, sensible, straight- 
thinking soldier, in direct lineage to Wellington and Grant, who was 
victorious when he was supplied with the means of victory. Innately 
he was aware of this; "furnish me with the men, the equipment and 
the supplies," he said at the start of World War I, and he would 
do the job. How well he would have done with inferior resources or 
fighting against insuperable odds can never be known. He was never 
confronted by an enemy who could outnumber or outgun him. 

And there were two serious deficiencies in his nature which barred 
him from military greatness. One was his lack of ability to inspire the 
men under him; he could make them do their duty but rarely more, 
and never with a soaring enthusiasm; the cheers he heard were always 
a trifle sullen. Shyness enclosed in a brusque and peremptory manner 
gave the impression of a cold-blooded driver. To the A.E.F. as a 
whole, he was the granite-faced man in the rear of a Cadillac that 
splashed mud on them as they marched to the front. He not only 
lacked the common touch but despised it. It rarely occurred to him 
that citizen-soldiers, unlike the tough professionals he led in the Philip- 
pines, might expect a fatherly smile now and then. 

Another defect was his strong conservatism, his attitude toward 


unorthodox men, new weapons and methods. He allowed the em- 
ployment of tank and plane, but they never aroused much enthusiasm 
in him. Neither he nor any of his high-ranking contemporaries seemed 
to grasp how war was being transformed by technology. To him a 
soldier was a man with a rifle, not an operator of weird mechanisms. 

The most amazing thing about the Pershing legend was his abso- 
lute Tightness for every important situation in which he was cast in a 
leading role, a Tightness that owed more to his ability than to the 
famous "Pershing luck." His achievements as a soldier and adminis- 
trator in the southern Philippines were one of the most attractive parts 
of his career. In dealing with the Moros on a human level, he was 
an innovator, ahead of his time, progressive in colonial administra- 
tion as he was conservative in large-scale warfare. There he showed 
elements of greatness, in a far corner of the world where his name is 
still honored above all other white men. In the futile pursuit of Villa 
he behaved with dignity, discretion, and forbearance exactly what 
was required of him. His career bridged the Old Army of the last 
century and the modern army which fought two world wars; "not the 
last of the Old," as the faithful Harbord wrote, "he is one of the first 
of the New." 

All that he was trained to be, all the remarkable opportunities 
handed to him were more than balanced by his performance as the 
commander in chief in France. There have been many justifiable criti- 
cisms of his ability as a diplomat, administrator, and tactician. He 
was an abrasive influence on Allied councils, made many mistakes 
in organizing and equipping his army, and lacked deceptiveness, sub- 
tlety, and originality in fighting his campaigns (all qualities which 
tended to be submerged, in any case, in the slugging matches of the 
western front). He was no military statesman. A military statesman 
would have knuckled under to the Allies, with incalculable results. 
Instead, Pershing clung to one idea: the American Army would fight 
as an integrated force under his command. 

No other available man could have matched his accomplishments 
in France. There his single-mindedness was invaluable. A less deter- 
mined man, even if he had managed to keep his army intact from the 
encroachments of the Allies, might well have hesitated at the fearful 
day-by-day cost of the fighting in the Meuse-Argonne. It took more 
than genius, or inspiration, or what Lawrence of Arabia called the 
"irrational tenth" of intuition and insight, to break the Hindenburg 


Line, to keep hammering when it was a question of whether his own 
men or the enemy would crack first. When he found staff officers con- 
sidering the possibilities of retreat, as was their duty, he told them, 
"Never mind planning how to conduct a retreat. You find out how to 
get guns and wagons over bad roads and enemy trenches damn 
quick." That was his style and his method limited, undoubtedly, but 
effective enough in that set of circumstances. The best summation of 
his achievements in France was wrijtten by Captain Liddell Hart, one 
of the severest critics of World War I generalship. "There was perhaps 
no other man who would, or could, have built the American Army on 
the scale he planned. And without that army the war could hardly 
have been saved and could not have been won." No American his- 
torian could have paid him a more resounding tribute. 

What he was and what he stood for, both as a man and a general, 
will always be a part of the American military tradition. If he did 
not achieve the romantic designation of great captain, he was one of 
a larger but no less worthy company. He was a good soldier in every 
hour of his life. 


The author is especially indebted to Mr. F. Warren Pershing, of New 
York, for reminiscing at length about his father, and on the same score to 
Colonels Ralph A. Curtin and Charles B. Shaw, both of whom went over- 
seas on the Baltic as field clerks and later served for many years on the 
general's staff. Colonel Curtin, a wise and witty Irishman, now secretary 
of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia's Com- 
mittee on Admissions and Grievances, served with Pershing for thirty 
years, until his death. Colonel Shaw, now attached to the American Battle 
Monuments Commission, was a member of Pershing's office staff for 
twenty years. Both of these gentlemen, along with Mr. Pershing, deserve 
much gratitude for having preserved and having placed in such excellent 
order the vast collection of Pershing Papers, now in custody of the Library 
of Congress's Manuscript Division. The author also appreciates the various 
kinds of assistance provided by David C. Mearns, Daniel J. Reed, John de 
Porry, and their colleagues in that library's Manuscript Division; two fel- 
low workers in the same field, Mr. A. A. Hoehling and Donald Smythe, 
S.J., Georgetown University, both of Washington; Mr. Will Fowler, of 
Encino, California, and Mr. L. F. Moore, chairman of the Pershing Park 
Memorial Association, Laclede, Missouri. 

The task of any Pershing biographer, of course, has been immensely 
aided by the recent availability of his papers. Their range is enormous: 
journals and notebooks kept in his early years as an officer, almost 200 
large boxes of correspondence, twenty-eight huge scrapbooks, his war 
diary (continued for several years afterward), the various drafts for an 
unpublished memoir of his pre- World War I career, and practically every 
Christmas card and invitation he received. The general attached a great 
deal of sentimental significance to Christmas cards. In the millions of words 
contained in this collection, most of the days of his life are accounted for 
but only in physical detail and occasionally in his opinion on public mat- 


ters. He rarely revealed the man underlying the officer, apparently con- 
sidering this of little significance or historic interest. To reveal himself 
would have violated his sense of proportion. He always insisted that he must 
be judged on the record. The record, with a few curious lapses, is there 
for everyone to see. 

The author is neither a "scholar" nor a military historian, in any formal 
sense, but the following notes account for the bulk of the sources used in 
this work. 


The descriptions of Laclede and Pershing's early years were drawn from 
Pershing's notes for his unpublished memoir, Box Nos. 373, 374, and 
380, Pershing Papers, and data supplied by the Pershing Park Memorial 
Association of Laclede. Information on the Pershing ancestry came princi- 
pally from Family Tree, by the Reverend J. H. Pershing, an undated 
pamphlet privately published in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, which may be 
found in the Pershing Papers, and from The Pershing Family in America, 
by E. J. Pershing. Other details of Pershing's boyhood years may be found 
in Tomlinson's and Palmer's earlier Pershing biographies, as well as Avery 
D. Andrews's memoir, My Friend and Classmate, John J. Pershing. 

An account of Pershing's fist fighting was given in the Missouri His- 
torical Record for April-July 1917; Clay Biggers's recollections on the 
same subject, in the Kansas City Star, July 9, 1916. Perry Floyd's char- 
acterization of Pershing as a boy was included in George MacAdam's 
series on Pershing for The World's Work, November 1918. MacAdam's 
series was invaluable on Pershing's life up to World War I, since Mac- 
Adam, an able and diligent reporter, interviewed many of the persons 
(now dead) who knew him in his youth. 

Information on his college education from the records of the Northeast 
Missouri State Teachers College at Kirksville, Missouri. His sister May's 
recollection of his concern over his appearance from McCracken's 
Pershing. West Point reminiscences are drawn from Andrews's My Friend 
and Classmate and Lieutenant General Robert Lee Bullard's candid and 
clear-eyed Personalities and Reminiscences. 

Pershing's own memories of his first days at West Point were contained 
in a letter to the Class of 1886, written March 15, 1911, from Zamboanga, 
Mindanao. His communications to his classmates invariably conveyed a 
depth of affection and nostalgia rarely found in any of his other writings. 

Pershing's painful recitation was described by his classmate Walcott in 
Andrews's memoir. Same source for Pershing's description of the trip west 


to his first post, a letter dated March 9, 1887, and addressed to his class. 

Sources for his participation in the Apache campaign of 1886 include 
his unpublished memoir, Box 380, Pershing Papers; Lieutenant General 
Nelson A. Miles's Serving the Republic; Fairfax Downey's Indian-Fighting 
Army; Paul I. Wellman's The Indian Wars of the West; Andrews's My 
Friend and Classmate, and MacAdam's series in The World's Work, No- 
vember 1918. 

Pershing as one of the "Three Green Peas" was described by Sophie A. 
Poe in her Buckboard Days. She was the wife of John Poe, the peace 
officer who accompanied Sheriff Pat Garrett the night Billy the Kid was 
shot and killed. Fort Stanton had been the center of strife and scandal 
during the Lincoln County cattle war several years before Pershing served 
there. Its commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Nathan A. M, Dudley, 
was removed for openly taking sides in the long and bloody dispute be- 
tween the cattle barons headed by John Chisum and the smaller ranchers 
of the Murphy-Dolan-Riley faction. Lucrative government beef contracts 
were at the bottom of the Army's involvement. In addition to Pat Garrett 
and John Poe, Pershing also made the acquaintance of Buffalo Bill Cody 
during this period, and in later years was inordinately proud of his meetings 
with these frontier celebrities. 

Pershing's capture of the three horse thieves on the Zuni reservation 
was described by 6th Cavalry officers to MacAdam, The World's Work, 
November 1918. Same source for Sergeant Stephenson's praise of his 
qualities as an officer. Description of Pershing's activities during the 
Wounded Knee campaign from his notes in Box 380, Pershing Papers. 


Pershing's career as a faculty member of the University of Nebraska was 
described in MacAdam's series, The World's Work, March 1919; An- 
drews's My Friend and Classmate, and notes and drafts for his unpub- 
lished memoir in Box 380, Pershing Papers. His friendship with Charles 
G. Dawes was told in Dawes's A Journal of the Great War. Dawes's early 
political career is outlined in Margaret Leech's In the Days of McKinley. 
Colonel William Hayward's statement was given MacAdam for his The 
World's Work series, March 1919. 

Meeting of Pershing and Theodore Roosevelt was described in An- 
drews's My Friend and Classmate. MacAdam dug out the West Point 
source of Pershing's "Nigger Jack" and "Black Jack" nicknames, The 
World's Work, March 1919. 

Official descriptions of Pershing's role in the Santiago campaign were 


contained in the reports to the Adjutant General's Office of the 10th Cav- 
alry's officers, Colonel Baldwin, Major Wint, commanding the 2nd 
Squadron, and Lieutenant John Bigelow, Jr., commanding Troop D, whose 
place Pershing took after Bigelow was wounded. Pershing's account of the 
Cuban fighting was delivered before the Hyde Park Methodist Episcopal 
Church in Chicago the evening of November 27, 1898. His brother Jim 
was a lay official of the church. All the quotations attributed to Pershing 
are from this account. Regarding the Cuban campaign, Pershing was par- 
ticularly proud of the fact that one of the first volunteer regiments to 
offer its services was the 1st Nebraska from the University of Nebraska. 
A firsthand account of the 71st New York Volunteers' panicked retreat 
at San Juan Hill was quoted in William A. Ganoe's The History of the 
United States Army. 

Pershing was recommended for staff duty by Colonel Leonard Wood, 
who praised him for "marked gallantry and efficiency" in the advance on 
Santiago in a letter dated July 30, 1898, and addressed to the Adjutant 
General's Office. At least twice, Wood boosted Pershing's career, then and 
later in the Philippines. Pershing, however, rejected Wood for a divisional 
command in the A.E.F. 

Root's work with the Bureau of Insular Affairs is concisely told in Mar- 
garet Leech's In the Days of McKinley. 

Pershing's story of his tour of the Woolwich Arsenal is from a draft for 
his unpublished memoir, Box 374, Pershing Papers. 


Pershing's estimate of the Moro character was included in a field-message 
notebook which he used briefly as a diary early in his Philippine tour, 
Box 1, Pershing Papers. 

A report on General Smith's "kill and burn" orders and his concentra- 
tion camps appeared in the Manila Times of November 4, 1901. The gen- 
eral was subsequently court-martialed, but his sentence was light. He was 
"to be admonished." 

The religious and political background of the southern Philippines is 
concisely analyzed in Volume II of Cameron Forbes's The Philippine Is- 
lands. As governor general of the islands, Forbes was an unusually keen 
and sympathetic observer. 

The Moro laws are quoted from the Mangindanao Code in Studies in 
Moro History, Law and Religion, Department of the Interior Ethnological 
Survey Publications, Volume IV, Manila, 1905. 

The account of the Cagayan River campaign was drawn from Captain 


Mays's and Pershing's reports to departmental headquarters, Box 1, Per- 
shing Papers. Also the general in chiefs report for 1901. 

Pershing's comment on Colonel Baldwin's intentions was made in notes 
for his unpublished memoir, Box 373, Pershing Papers. Bullard's observa- 
tions on Pershing's receiving the Camp Vicars command from Person- 
alities and Reminiscences. Pershing's playing chess with the Moros and 
entertaining them at the Fourth of July celebration were described to 
Mac Adam (The World's Work, May 1919) by officers who had served at 
Camp Vicars. 

The Manila Times account of the storming of the Sultan of Maciu's fort 
was published October 22, 1902; its editorial praising his "attitude toward 
the customs of the people," April 10, 1903. 

Incident of Pershing and the "talking machine" and his persuasion of 
the Moro chiefs from the Army Register, September 20, 1958. Description 
of Pershing's visit to the Sultan of Bayan's stronghold from the Manila 
Times issues of November 1903; MacAdam's series in The World's Work, 
May 1919, and notes for his memoir, Box 374, Pershing Papers. Per- 
shing's boast of his influence with the Moros and his adoption of four 
Moro children are contained in a field-message notebook he kept briefly 
as a diary, Box 1, Pershing Papers. 

A copy of Pershing's report on the capture of Fort Bacolod may be 
found in his field notebook, Box 1, Pershing Papers. Regarding the Moro 
losses at Bacolod, the Manila Times correspondent estimated them at 120 
to 150 killed. 

Pershing's description of the action at Taraca was contained in telegrams 
to General Sumner at the Malabang base, copies of which may be found 
in a field-message notebook, Box 3, Pershing Papers. The interview with 
Henry Savage Landor appeared in the Hong Kong China Mail July 11, 
1903. Clippings describing Pershing's return to the United States and visits 
with his family may be found in Box 381, Pershing Papers. Secretary of 
War Root's remark concerning Pershing's promotion to brigadier was 
quoted in Andrews's My Friend and Classmate. 


A concise account of the formation of the General Staff, and arguments 
for and against it, may be found in Ganoe's History of the United States 

Senator Warren's background and early career were described in a 
Saturday Evening Post article, December 2, 1911. Descriptions of his 
daughter from the Washington Post and Star, January 10, 1905; also from 


MacAdam's series (The World's Work, May 1919), which contained de- 
tails of her romance with and marriage to Pershing. A detailed account of 
the wedding was carried by the Army and Navy Journal in its January 28, 
1905, issue. 

The historic significance of the Russo-Japanese War is brilliantly analyzed 
in Major General J. F. C. Fuller's A Military History of the Western 
World, Volume III. 

Pershing's recollections of the other military attaches in Manchuria 
were included partly in his published, memoir, My Experiences in the 
World War, also in notebooks to be found in Box 3, Pershing Papers. Activi- 
ties at the observers' camp were described in Frederick Palmer's With My 
Own Eyes, General Max Von Hoffmann's The War of Lost Opportunities, 
and Palmer's With Kuroki in Manchuria. 

Pershing's report as the United States military observer was included in 
Box 371, Pershing Papers. 

Bullard's comment on Pershing's promotion, Personalities and Reminis- 
cences. Pershing himself clipped a wide selection of the editorial comment 
on his promotion (Box 381, Pershing Papers). Pershing's demand for the 
arrest of a hotel doorman is mentioned in Colonel R. Ernest Dupuy's Com- 
pact History of the United States Army. Report of Pershing's tentative 
assignment to command the Department of the Visayas from the Washing- 
ton Star, October 21, 1906. Senator Warren's denial of the charges made 
against Pershing was published by the Washington Star and Post, Decem- 
ber 21, 1906. Clippings from the Manila newspapers on Pershing's engag- 
ing an attorney to refute the charges against him may be found, undated, 
in a scrapbook in Box 382, Pershing Papers. 

Pershing's tactfulness in assuming command of Fort McKinley was re- 
lated to MacAdam (The World's Work, May 1919) by Colonel Kingsbury. 
Shortly after Pershing took over this command, his brother Ward retired 
from the Army because of ill health. Ward Pershing died several years 
later, his health ruined by tropical diseases which infected him during his 
Cuban and Philippine service. 

Governor General Forbes's comment on Pershing's administration was 
included in his The Philippine Islands, Volume II; also the account of Per- 
shing's establishment of the Sulu News. A description of his plan for har- 
nessing the Tumaga River was published by the Voz de Mindanao on May 
18, 1910. Letters and reports concerning the marriage of Lieutenant F. 
to a Filipino are contained in Box 371, Pershing Papers. The letter of an 
officer's wife describing the dangerous conditions of life in Zamboanga was 
published by the New York World, September 21, 1913. Pershing's de- 
scription of a juramentado attack was contained in a letter to General Bell 


from Jolo, April 22, 1911, Box 371, Pershing Papers; same source for the 
letter from General Bliss. 

The mass meeting of the Moros and the Christian Filipinos was de- 
scribed in Forbes's The Philippine Islands, Volume II; likewise the descrip- 
tion of the baseball game in which he and Pershing participated. Pershing's 
recommendations for a realignment of military forces and the description 
of the Subano uprising from his report to the War Department, June 30, 
1910; his proposals for army reforms in his report of the succeeding year. 
The Moro Constabulary was organized by Captain James G. Harbord, 
who was Pershing's chief of staff during the early stages of the A.E.F. 
Pershing's letters to his wife regarding the 1911 campaign may be found 
in Box 3, Pershing Papers. His letter of February 28, 1913, on the Jolo 
situation was quoted by Forbes in The Philippine Islands, Volume II. His 
report to the commanding general on the Bagsak action is in Box 382, 
Pershing Papers. The account of the Bagsak fighting given by John Mc- 
Leod was published July 31, 1913, in the Washington Herald, as well as 
other American newspapers. 


Departure of Pershing and his regiments for the Mexican border from the 
San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle, April 20-28, 1914. Pancho Villa's 
personality is captured in Bullets, Bottles, and Gardenias by Timothy 
Turner, then an El Paso newspaperman who covered Mexican revolution- 
ary activities; also Louis Stevens's and Edgcumb Pinchon's works on Villa. 
Pershing's description of Villa and Obregon from a draft of his unpub- 
lished memoir, Box 373, Pershing Papers. 

How Pershing received the news of his wife's and daughters' deaths 
was described in Mac Adam's series (The World's Work, June 1919), 
based on interviews with Pershing's staff. Details of the fire at the Presidio 
from the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner, August 28-30, 1915. The 
editorial quoted appeared in the Chronicle, August 30. 

Much of the pre-American phases of World War I was drawn from the 
following general histories: Cyril Falls's The Great War, 1914-1918; 
General Fuller's A Military History of the Western World, Volume III; 
Winston Churchill's The World Crisis; and A History of the World War, 
1914-1918, by B. H. Liddell Hart. 

General Scott's denunciation of the recognition of Carranza from his 
Some Memories of a Soldier. The story of the Columbus raid is told in 
some detail by Colonel Frank Tompkins's Chasing Villa and Colonel H. A. 
Toulmin's With Pershing in Mexico. Tompkins commanded the squadron 


which chased Villa back across the border after the raid. Lieutenant 
Lucas's account of the fighting in Columbus was quoted from his book. 
Pershing's selection to command the punitive expedition is recounted in 
Frederick Palmer's Bliss, Peacemaker. Bullard's comment from his Per- 
sonalities and Reminiscences. General Funston's remark on the job facing 
Pershing was quoted in World Alive, the autobiography of Robert Dunn, 
a correspondent for the New York Tribune, who accompanied the puni- 
tive expedition. 


General Scott's account of the intrigue in Washington against Pershing 
from Some Memories of a Soldier. 

Colonel Toulmin's quotation from With Pershing in Mexico. Pershing's 
comment on the First Aero Squadron from My Experiences, Volume I. 
Account of the initial efforts of the squadron from the report of Captain 
Benjamin Foulois, its commanding officer, to the War Department, March 
15-August 15, 1916. The military aviation was then part of the Signal 
Corps, since it was designed more for observation than combat. 

Pershing's statements to the press and his relations with the correspond- 
ents were recalled in Dunn's World Alive. 

Tompkins's talk with Pershing at Bachiniva the night of April 1 was 
related in his Chasing Villa; Dunn's observation on Pershing's "taking it 
on the chin" from his World Alive. Damon Runyon's dispatch was pub- 
lished in the New York American April 2, 1916. 

Pershing's organization of the district commands was detailed in Gen- 
eral Order No. 28, issued from his field headquarters at Namiquipa. Ac- 
count of the Ojos Azules fight from Major Howze's report to Pershing; 
also an article in the Cavalry Journal (January 1917) by First Lieutenant 
M. S. Williams, who commanded a troop in Howze's squadron. 

The one-armed General Obreg6n later became President of Mexico and 
eventually was assassinated ironically enough at Parral, where American 
troops were lured into the ambush that didn't come off. Villa also was 
assassinated several years after the end of World War I. 

The caustic comment on the rumors concerning Villa's fate was pub- 
lished in the Kansas City Journal of July 1, 1916. Lieutenant Patton's ex- 
ploits were recounted in Harry H. Semmes's Portrait of Patton, which 
quotes Patton's letter to his wife from Pershing's headquarters. 

Threatening maneuvers of the Carranzistas in early June were detailed 
in Tompkins's Chasing Villa. The exchange of telegrams between Pershing 
and Trevino took place on June 16. 


Junius B. Wood's interview with Pershing at Colonia Dublan appeared 
in the New York Globe, July 20, 1916. The New York Sun's comment 
on his promotion was published on September 28, 1916. General Scott's 
approval was conveyed in his memoir, Some Memories of a Soldier. The 
editorial urging the evacuation of the expeditionary force appeared in the 
New York Herald of November 24, 1916. 

Pershing's reports on the renewal of Villa activity were contained in 
telegrams to General Funston, his immediate superior, November 2 and 
December 16, 1916. General Scott's reflections on the failure of the volun- 
teer system were included in his annual report as chief of staff, Sep- 
tember 30, 1916. 


All quotations from General Pershing's war diary are to be found in 
Box 4-5, Pershing Papers. 

Marshal Foch's statement from his Memoirs. General Bliss's memos to 
Scott and Baker are quoted in Palmer's Bliss, Peacemaker. General Har- 
bord's comments on the departure of Pershing and his staff for France 
are to be found hi his readable and enlightening Leaves from a War Diary. 
Frederick Palmer's recollection of Colonel George M. Harvey loudly an- 
nouncing the ship on which Pershing was sailing was included in his New- 
ton D. Baker, Volume I. Harvey was also violently anti-Baker, characteriz- 
ing the Secretary of War as "a chattering ex-pacifist." In his subsequently 
established, war-hawking Harvey's Weekly he generally referred to Baker 
as "Newtie Cootie." 

Pershing's account of his departure on the Baltic from his war diary. 
His conversation with Frederick Palmer on "bloodshed and destruction" 
was recorded in Palmer's John J. Pershing, General of the Armies. Har- 
bord's comments on their reception in England from his Leaves from a 
War Diary. 

Description of the landing at Boulogne from Wilbur Forrest's Behind 
the Front Page. Forrest covered that event as a correspondent for the 
United Press. 


Pershing's comments on Petain were made in My Experiences, Volume I. 
A terse and unfriendly summation of Petain's career may be found in 
Philip Guedalla's The Two Marshals. Pershing read this book, published 


during World War II, and didn't like it a bit. Pershing's observations on 
civilian morale in France also from My Experiences, Volume I. Harbord's 
report on the talk of corruption in high places was included in the June 19 
and July 12, 1917, entries in his War Diary. Forrest's description of tem- 
porary A.E.F. Headquarters from Behind the Front Page. 

Breakdown of communications with the War Department and the 
pile-up of orders, dispatches, and reports there : Pershing's My Experiences 
and his war diary, Box 4-5, Pershing Papers; Harbord's War Diary and 
The American Army in France; ColoneJ T. Bentley Mott's Twenty Years 
as a Military Attache. Bliss's habit of slipping papers under his blotter was 
related in Palmer's Bliss, Peacemaker. 

A rundown on the success of the Anglo-American naval effort in the 
Atlantic may be found in Frederic L. Paxson's America at War, 1917- 

Haig's comment on Pershing from his diary, November 4, 1917, quoted 
in Alfred Duff Cooper's Haig. Account of Pershing's visit from My Experi- 
ences, Volume I, his war diary, and Harbord's War Diary. 

Palmer reported his conversation with Pershing in the garden of the 
house on Rue de Varenne in With My Own Eyes, his autobiography. 

Pershing's explanation of his reasons for taking over the Lorraine front 
was extracted from his Final Report, published in 1919. 

Enrollment of the "three musketeers" was recorded in Palmer's With 
My Own Eyes. 


Pershing's continuing sorrow over his family tragedy was related by 
Charles G. Dawes in A Journal of the Great War, Volume I. Palmer's 
comments on Pershing's "fading" human quality from With My Own 
Eyes; Bullard's from Personalities and Reminiscences. Baker's report to 
Pershing on Stateside feeling against the Sam Browne belt was quoted 
in Palmer's Newton D. Baker, Volume II, from a letter written on August 
19, 1918. 

Pershing's recollection of the joke he played on General P6tain from 
My Experiences, Volume I; likewise his account of observing the French 
attacks on the Meuse. Pershing noted with obvious concern that the four 
days of artillery preparation for the French attacks cost a total of $75,- 
000,000 in ammunition expended. 

Pershing's program for employing his army in open warfare was out- 
lined in My Experiences, Volume I, and his war diary, Box 4-5, Pershing 


Clemenceau's remarks on Pershing from his farewell fusillade, Grandeur 
and Misery of Victory. A striking profile of the Clemenceau personality 
may be found in Dusk of Empire, by Wythe Williams, an American cor- 
respondent stationed in Paris who knew Clemenceau well before and after 
he became Premier. Pershing's account of Clemenceau's visit to the First 
Division while a senator from My Experiences, Volume I. 

Colonel Mott's comparison of Foch and Petain from his Twenty Years 
as a Military Attache; also for his description of Pershing and Foch groping 
toward an understanding. 

How the A.E.F. ordered and canceled on gantry cranes was told in 
Palmer's Newton D. Baker, Volume I. Stateside purchasing mistakes were 
detailed in Forrest's Behind the Front Page. 

Pershing's plea for younger officers was contained in a confidential letter 
to the Secretary of War, October 4, 1917. 

Appointment of Charles G. Dawes as general purchasing agent for the 
A.E.F. from Dawes's A Journal of the Great War and Harbord's War 
Diary. Incident of Dawes saluting Pershing with a cigar in his mouth from 
Forrest's Behind the Front Page. 

Colonel Repington's observations on the Chaumont scene from his The 
First World War, 1914-1918, Volume II. 

Pershing's gifts of food to the children living in a section house between 
Chaumont and Paris from MacAdam's series (The World's Work, Sep- 
tember 1919). 

Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.'s embarrassing run-in with Pershing in 
Paris was recalled in her lively autobiography, Day Before Yesterday. 


The Westbrook Pegler incident was related